Weather Affects WVMEA Conferences
"Notes da Capo" by John L. Puffenbarger
March is a month with a variety of weather. It is known to "come in like a lion and go out like a lamb," with varying degrees in between. Since the WVMEA conference is held in March, many types of weather have been encountered.
This year, a large moisture-laden low pressure system moved into the state early in the week of the conference. On Wednesday, schools in several counties were closed due to flooding, making it impossible for some students to attend the Piano Division festival that day. Temperatures began to drop on Thursday, and the Charleston region had light snowfall. The overnight low was 16 degrees. Friday was a chilly 36 degrees, and Saturday warmed up to around 55 degrees.
The topic of discussion at the Retired Music Educators session was the weather. We recalled occasions when weather caused havoc at WVMEA conferences. While it was difficult to remember exact years, we could recall the locations.
In the early 1970s, I was taking all-state band students to a Charleston conference. It had snowed about three or four inches overnight, and the roads had not been plowed. Driving up a hill past the French Creek Game Farm, we came upon a car. A teacher was on her way to Rock Cave Elementary School and could not make it up the hill. The boys in my car jumped out and pushed the car up the hill, and then we continued our journey.
One year, the conference was held at Wilson Lodge at Oglebay Park in Wheeling. The weather early in the week was pleasant, but turned cold the opening day. Women had packed short sleeve dresses, and most people wore light spring clothing. Since WVMEA president Ron Wood was not prepared for the drastic change in temperature, he had to borrow an overcoat to go downtown to visit an all-state chorus rehearsal.
A couple of ladies walked out of their chalet at Oglebay and fell on black ice in the parking lot. They tried several times to get up, but kept falling. They were afraid that witnesses would think they had been drinking.
In the early 1990s, it snowed on the last day of a conference in Morgantown. People traveling on Saturday had to drive through a snowstorm. By evening, six inches of snow had fallen. Because the snow continued into late afternoon, several clinicians who lived on the East Coast had to stay in Morgantown an extra night.
When weather interrupts school schedules, it is difficult for a director to get a musical organization ready for a performance. When these interruptions occur a few days prior to a conference, it must give the directors of honor groups and other performing ensembles headaches.
When WVMEA conferences were held at one site (a hotel), inclement weather did not interfere with the program. As the conferences grew in size, going from one location to another became more difficult. While weather has caused problems at a few conferences, it has been nice most of the time. One retired educator recalled a Morgantown conference that had 80 degree temperatures each day.
Margaret Pantelone attended an MENC conference in Chicago one year. The "Windy City" was hit with a snowstorm, forcing Margaret to stay three extra days. Jeanne Moore also attended that conference. She remembers flying into Charleston and seeing pink dogwood in bloom.
A high school band from a southern state performed at a Southern Division MENC conference that was held in Charleston, WV in 1962. It snowed one evening, and guests at the Ruffner Hotel were awakened late at night by the sound of many band members running down stairs to see the snow. It was a strange sight to those who had never seen snow.