James River High School recording studio upgraded following a donation from a country music star

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BUCHANAN, Virginia (WDBJ) – The crescendo of a quiet project has reached the ears of a famous country musician. Now, students at James River High School in Buchanan have the tools to explore music in a new way.

“I come here almost every day and start bringing my friend here and we start making jam over lunch,” said sophomore Cayden Shorter said.

Students like Shorter and Bradley Gunter senior fill a rhythmic room in the high school library.

“I started trying to write songs with my friends,” Shorter said.

Although the couple don’t usually play together, they both find a new passion.

“When you’re sitting there and playing something, it feels good to have a song downstairs,” Gunter said.

But the equipment and the guitars weren’t always there in the library.

Jim McLeese is the school librarian. He began to find the resources to make the recording studio a reality several years ago.

When he taught English he kept a guitar in his classroom. When he transitioned to the librarian position, he added a microphone and basic recording setup to give students new opportunities to get creative.

“I think some kids came to school just so they could play guitar,” McLeese said.

The unique guitar grew and now there are instruments, microphones and a soundboard lining the walls.

“The arts are important to our lives, to society, and what’s the first thing that gets cut off when we have budget issues? This piece will never be cut now, ”McLeese said.

This safety and much of the equipment is due to a famous Buchanan alum.

“As soon as you strike a chord, you vibrate a bit,” said country music artist Matthew Ramsey.

Ramsey is a singer-songwriter with the band Old Dominion. Despite all of his success in country music, Ramsey has not forgotten his hometown. He returns home for performances and fundraising for his nonprofit, the Ramsey Foundation.

“I have had a community of support and if I could somehow inject some fuel into that support for someone else, then it seems like the right thing to do.” Ramsey said.

This fuel was a donation of $ 50,000 to the high school of his foundation. Almost $ 20,000 has been devoted to strengthening the recording studio.

“The point is, they get kind of a release when they walk in there or they get some kind of comfort picking up that guitar and strumming a chord because that can save you,” Ramsey said.

“We need more things in life to make us happy and the guitar or the drums or any kind of instrument is a tool to help us achieve that,” McLeese said.

McLeese is working with Lee Hartman & Sons to learn the equipment and plans to have it fully operational by the start of the next school year.

For now, students like Shorter and Gunter are playing with the new instruments, excited to continue using the hall in the future.

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