The Alabama lead singer delighted second graders on their last day of class at Wills Valley Elementary School.
Parker Starnes sat front row as the famous grandfather led a classroom in some of the band’s biggest hits, joined by his wife Kelly and other family members as everyone enjoyed the school’s annual end-of-year black light art exhibition.
“I’m very proud of you. You’re a beautiful bunch,” Owen told the kids, prompting one child to respond, “You’re beautiful.
“I think all children are beautiful and we can all be beautiful if we show more love and kindness and care about each other,” Owen said. “This is how I believe the world can become a better place and you are the ones who can make it that way. Love your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and love your brothers and sisters and it will be a better place.
Owen thanked one of his teachers at the Adamsburg school for encouraging him to stay in school and eventually earn a degree from Jacksonville State University. He applauded the students for their artistic creations and encouraged them to continue their quest for self-expression through the arts. He admitted to being a “horrible student” in science and math “but I was really good at poetry and writing, which turned out to be where I should have been all along. Be your own person. Be proud of who you are.
Teacher Lindy Vizzinia, aka “Mrs. Art,” incorporated Alabama music with elements like the iconic storybook character, Pete the Cat, created by local artist James Dean. Throughout the school year, the school unveiled the weekly art spot using the question “Where’s Pete this week?” »
Vizzinia’s custom art classes began in downtown Fort Payne at the DeKalb Theater creating straight line drawings of the theater stage. Students made creations of angels simulating famed folk artist Howard Finster of Valley Head, Ala. While creating angels, the students sang along to the song “Angels Among Us” recorded by the Alabama Band.
Following this, “Pete” walked to Desoto Falls and the students created acrylic landscape paintings on stretched canvas. Next, Pete stepped up by guiding his 18-wheeler students to produce their own 18-wheelers while singing “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)”. After descending Lookout Mountain to the Alabama Fan Club, the students designed collages of their own band member playing an instrument.
Vizzinia told the students they will miss them as they move to Little Ridge Middle School next year, where they will have her twin sister Marcie Davis as their new art teacher.
Vizzinia and Davis included an image in a slideshow presentation from 35 years ago posing with Owen at one of the June Jam charity concerts in Alabama. They took the opportunity to “recreate” the moment.
After the event, Owen joked that the two women still looked alike while noting that his hair was now gray and that he had traveled many miles since the previous photo was taken.
“I’m just grateful to be here,” he said. “My wishes are, and I know the band feels, that the appreciation of our music will continue long after the city of Fort Payne accepts the fact that we are here and part of the community and that we gave instead of taking. I hope this encourages these young people to become donors and great citizens.
“I hope they embrace the arts in our community. There are amazing musicians from this area and writers and ministers and just people who do things beyond the day job. We come from a working-class agricultural background and we are very proud of it. We accept that. We want the community to work together for the betterment of society. Today is very humbling for me because I will probably never see these children grow up to be adults. Hopefully today will help instill in them the importance of giving back to others.
Owen and his bandmates will be giving back next month during the annual Fan Appreciation Days, with events scheduled for June 16-19 to benefit charities including the DeKalb County Children’s Advocacy Center, the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the June Jam Foundation.
Teddy Gentry’s “Singing With the Stars” talent contest is scheduled for June 16 at 7 p.m. at Northeast Alabama Community College. The Songwriters Showcase Spectacular, featuring some of America’s greatest songwriters performing their hits, is scheduled for June 17 at 7 p.m., also at NACC. Alabama will perform in Fort Payne at a fan appreciation concert exclusively for prepaid Alabama fan club members on June 18. Owens’ Pandemonium on the Farm will wrap up events on June 19.