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Ky. musician giving instruments to tornado victims who lost theirs


A Kentucky folksinger and radio personality will be distributing instruments to western and central Kentucky musicians who lost theirs in December’s tornado outbreak. The instruments will be distributed next week in Mayfield, Dawson Springs and Owensboro.

Michael Johnathon hosts the nationally syndicated WoodSongs program promoting roots and Americana music. He believes amateur musicians who lost their medium of expression in the storm need their instruments now more than ever.

“I’m an artist and I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through a hard time like this, because what every musician and songwriter does at a time like this is reach for their guitar or their piano or their banjo,” Johnathon told WKMS. “It’s the emotional statement of human life, that’s what music is. All those front porches are gone.”

“All those guitars, banjos and mandolins are gone. That’s the one thing that we can do with WoodSongs to help.”

Johnathon and his community of his radio supporters have gathered and restored nearly a 1,000 instruments since launching the effort in the immediate wake of the storm, in a YouTube video.

His community worked with music stores and suppliers from around the state and country to collect instruments, including banjos, guitars, fiddles, mandolins, flutes, trumpets, horns, pianos and organs, among others. Johnathon and volunteers cleaned, restored and tuned the instruments at Currier’s Music World in Richmond.

“We’re going to be able to provide replacement instruments for anyone that needs one,” Johnathon said. “This is a large area of folks that we want to help. This is a big, somewhat complicated, but loving effort.”

More information about the available instruments, request forms for instruments and a way to contact Johnathan if you’re a musician in need is available via the WoodSongs website.

These instruments will be available to storm victims who lost instruments free of charge at a trio of locations in the coming week, including:

  • Friday, Mar. 18 from 5-8 p.m. at Graves County Public Library in Mayfield
  • Saturday, Mar. 19, from noon to 4 p.m. at West Dawson Music Venue in Dawson Springs
  • Saturday, Mar. 19, from 6-8 p.m. at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro

Johnathon wants instruments to be available to anyone who may have lost one during the storms, and there are likely quite a few.

“We’re dealing with a tornado that was 200 miles-plus on the ground and destroyed a huge swath of homes, businesses, lives, front porches, schools and churches,” he said. “This is a huge area of damage. You’re talking about from Arkansas to northern Tennessee, parts of Indiana, a huge part of Kentucky, even into Illinois.”

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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