By Christy Schutte
When you want to help others, good things happen. It’s simple, but true. And it certainly was the case for Marion County High School teacher Holly Wooten. Wooten is a first-year English and Advanced Drama teacher and was anxious to get an annual school play back on stage for her students. “They haven’t had a school play in eight years,” she explained. “The kids were so anxious to be able to perform, and I knew this was something that would be good for the whole school and community.” But, sometimes, even when the enthusiasm is there, having all the necessary tools to pull off a high school play isn’t easy. Having a very tight budget makes that even more difficult.
Wooten said they literally had one microphone in the school, and it was a bulky handheld one. “There is no way the audience would be able to hear the actors performing without microphones,” explained Wooten, whose students are performing “The Importance of Being Earnest,” by Oscar Wilde on April 26 to 28. “So, I started making phone calls to find out about renting wireless headset microphones.” She started getting quotes of $250 per microphone, which she said was way too expensive, especially because there are nine actors involved. “We had a very small budget, and had to use the money on props and the set. There was no way we could have afforded to rent microphones for that price,” she continued. “I was very disheartened.”
Then, Wooten made a phone call to Willis Music in Lexington. Store Manager Brad Hulett told her that, instead of renting microphones, they would be happy to lend them to the school for free. He said the store enjoys doing this type of outreach for schools, churches and community events. “I was so happy to hear this, and never expected a company to just offer to lend them to us,” Wooten said. “In fact, Brad actually gave us the best headsets they have from Shure and Sennheiser, which was amazing. The kids are so excited about these microphones and couldn’t wait to try them out,” she added.
“The lightweight frame gave me a comfortable feel, while I experienced breathtaking sound quality,” said 17-year-old Jordan Mattingly, who is a junior at Marion County High School. “The euphoric feeling of hearing your loud, crisp voice through the headsets Willis Music lent us is unlike any other,” junior Mary Helen Hamilton, 17, added. Wooten said she loved seeing how genuinely happy the kids were about the microphones, and knows that it will make a huge difference in both their ability to perform and the ease of acting on stage.
“The play will be much more realistic for the audience without a bulky microphone,” explained Wooten, “and the actors will have freedom of movement.” Eighteen-year-old Britani Martell poignantly expressed how much the sincerity and generosity of Willis Music can impact the confidence of a teenager, saying, “The headset Willis Music lent us gives me the feeling that we are special, and that I’m someone worth listening to.”