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Home > Spotlight > Carrie Underwood Donates Instruments to Checotah H.S.

Carrie Underwood donates instruments to hometown school band

Checotah H.S. students surprised by $117,000 gift

By Ken Martinson, Founder

Checotah H.S. Principal Brian Terry introduced Carrie Underwood as she visited her hometown to unveil a donation of more than $117,000 in musical instruments. Students and faculty at Checotah (Okla.) High School were already proud of Grammy Award-winning artist Carrie Underwood, their most famous graduate. Now they are also deeply thankful.

Underwood, who rose to fame after winning American Idol Season 4, surprised the Checotah staff and students August 28 by personally visiting her alma mater to unveil a major donation of instruments for the school district's music programs.

The donation was provided by Underwood's new hometown foundation, the Checotah Animal, Town & School Foundation (C.A.T.S.), in conjunction with the Academy of Country Music's charitable arm, ACM Lifting Lives.

The gift is valued at more than $117,000, and includes tubas, French horns, saxophones, an electric guitar, an electric piano and more. The instruments were ordered through Yamaha Corporate Artist Affairs at a special philanthropic price.

Big impact on students

The donation will prove to be life-changing for students, according to Checotah High School Band Director Jimmy Davis.

Band Director Jimmy Davis says instruments donated by Carrie Underwood will replace old horns that were literally taped together. "Imagine the feeling it gave me when I handed a brand new Yamaha YCR Cornet to an outstanding and well-deserving sixth grader. A day before he was playing on a trumpet that I had pieced together with duct tape," Davis said. "Then I tell him that Carrie Underwood and some really good people would like for him to play this instrument. The look on his face said it all."

Davis said all of the donated instruments have been placed into the school's inventory list with the initials "C.U." attached to each instrument. The instruments will be shared throughout the Checotah school district, where the band program includes a sixth grade band, seventh and eighth grade band, high school jazz band, high school concert band and the "Class of Checotah Marching Band."

"This kind of donation just doesn't happen to music programs," Davis said, noting that the administration does the best it can to help fund all areas in the school curriculum. "In my twenty-nine years of teaching, it's a first. Thank you and God bless Carrie Underwood, the Academy of Country Music and Yamaha for your donation to the Checotah School Bands."

A star returns

Ever since winning American Idol, Carrie Underwood has been a staple of radio airplay and televised awards shows. She has delivered hit songs such as "Jesus, Take The Wheel" and "So Small," and she is the reigning Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year. Her latest album, to be released November 3, 2009, is titled Play On.

Underwood returned to Checotah to reveal the donation of instruments during a surprise event. Music students from throughout the district were invited to a special "last-minute" assembly at Checotah High School, and buses were arranged to bring the intermediate and middle school students to the event. Cheers erupted when Checotah High School Principal Brian Terry introduced Underwood, along with ACM Lifting Lives Director Erin Spahn.

"I am so proud to have come from such a wonderful community that helped shape me as a person," Underwood said. "I can think of nothing better than to share the gift of music with the students in my hometown. It's so great to be able to give back in a way that can truly better the lives of these kids and help create dreams and opportunities."

During the presentation, Underwood thanked the Academy of Country Music's Lifting Lives program for helping her make this donation a reality, and she asked 5th grader Kennedee Rittenhouse to join her onstage to perform "So Small."

Underwood's donation and personal visit to connect with students made the event doubly memorable, according to Principal Terry.

"We are so lucky as a school district and a town to have an ambassador like Carrie," Terry said. "She was Valedictorian here and continues to be an outstanding citizen of Checotah. Today was a very special day for the students and faculty."

A new tradition for the ACM

The Academy of Country Music plans to facilitate similar gifts in the future, according to Spahn.

"The Board of ACM Lifting Lives liked the concept so well, we've decided to build on it," Spahn said. "Every year, we will present a matching gift opportunity to the ACM Entertainer of the Year for any endeavor that uplifts through the power of music. Carrie started that ball rolling, and we're really proud to be a part of this with her."

About the C.A.T.S. Foundation
Carrie Underwood announced in August 2009 the creation of the C.A.T.S Foundation to help causes in her hometown of Checotah, Oklahoma. Privately funded, the C.A.T.S. Foundation will help with needs and services in the area of Checotah to directly impact the community. The donation of musical instruments is the first donation to the Checotah community from C.A.T.S.

About the Academy of Country Music
Founded in 1964, the Academy of Country Music is an artist and industry-driven organization, providing financial resources to ensure the ongoing philanthropic work of ACM Lifting Lives, the charitable arm of the Academy which works to improve lives through music. The Academy comprises more than 3,800 professional members and more than 180,000 associate members and is headquartered in Encino, California. Carrie Underwood's donation of musical instruments kicks off a new ACM Lifting Lives Entertainer of the Year Matching Gift program, wherein each year the reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year will be invited to impact a community of his/her choice with a special opportunity that uplifts through the power of music, and the Academy will match funds for greater impact. For more information, visit

View a video excerpt of Carrie Underwood's visit to Checotah on YouTube

Source material and photograph of Carrie Underwood's presentation courtesy of the Academy of Country Music Lifting Lives. Photograph of Jimmy Davis courtesy of Checotah H.S. Band.

Copyright 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.

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