POINT PLEASANT — Many individuals face the difficulties of being bullied while in school, but those same individuals can persevere through the pain and make a difference in their adult lives.
David Wells, contemporary jazz musician and founder of the Chocolate Jazz Foundation 501C3, was bullied throughout high school and college days. However, he did not let this stop him from achieving his dream of being a jazz musician and fueled him to become a motivational speaker encouraging students to make right the choices and raise awareness about bullying.
Recently, Wells visited Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School (PPJ/SHS), which was sponsored by Trinity United Methodist Church in Point Pleasant.
Wells, who resides in Parkersburg, has been visiting various schools for approximately seven years now, traveling throughout West Virginia and Ohio, as well as in larger cities like Indianapolis, Ind., Chicago, Ill. and Nashville, Tenn., speaking to students ranging from elementary to high school age. All assemblies Wells attends are cost free to the schools a they are funded by sponsors.
Wells shared he was approached by a principal at a school where he was helping with the music program and was asked if he knew anyone who could speak about bullying with the students. After some thought, he figured he could do a fair job at speaking to students on this subject and so it began. The focus of his presentations are based around bullying and making the right choices in life, focusing on the three D’s — desire, discipline, and determination. He also talks about his journey of being a jazz musician in West Virginia.
During the earlier years of his musical career, Wells had to learn to conquer his stage fright without the use of mood-altering substances. For a time, he used prescription drugs and alcohol to help him cope.
When Wells arrived to the stage of his musical career when he obtained an agent, his agent tried to encourage him to move to a bigger city to help him improve his career. Wells did not want to leave his hometown though, he chose to make his career work and stay in West Virginia.
“Whenever I come into a school in West Virginia, I put really a lot into it because I’m from West Virginia. We got this stigma. So many kids, even parents, use the reason I’m not successful is because I’m born in West Virginia, there’s no contacts, there’s no money…all of my accomplishments that I have achieved in music was in West Virginia. I didn’t move to a bigger city, it was a lot of hard work,” said Wells. “The easiest thing for anyone to do is to quit, I mean anybody can quit…if they keep on getting knocked down, if they keep on getting back up, those are the ones that will be making a difference.”
Throughout the assemblies at PPJ/SHS, Wells put on mini concerts playing his melodic flugelhorn and showed video clips for emphasis. During the middle school assembly, since he was touching on such an emotional subject, he lightened the mood for the students by inviting three staff members up to the stage to try their hand at playing the trumpet.
At one point during his presentation, Wells played the popular tune “Hallelujah” while a clip from “Shrek” played in the background.
Wells commented in the movie “Shrek” the title character feels like an outcast to the villagers as he is an ogre and looks different from them. At one point he tells his friend Donkey it is best if he is left alone commenting, “I don’t have a problem with villagers, the villagers have a problem with me.”
Following, Wells showed a video made by an elementary school which visually captured all a bullied child must carry on them throughout the day.
“A bully is a person who has low self esteem, in other words, they think they can’t do certain things well, they think they can’t do anything well, so what they’ll do 99 percent of the time is pick on someone smaller themselves to make them feel better about themselves,” said Wells. “Bullying is worse today than it has ever been…one out of three kids is bullied every day of school, one out of five kids are the one doing the bullying, there is between 175-200,000 kids a day who don’t go to school because they’re afraid of being bullied or criticized. As I have mentioned, 90 percent of all the bullying that takes place is because of somebody’s appearance.”
Wells visits numerous schools throughout the year and some of these schools have extreme cases of bullying. At one school he visited in Perrysville, Ohio nine students in one year died from suicide and/or drug overdose.
He shared 85 percent of bullying cases do not receive intervention because most children do not let the adults in their lives know what is happening. However, Wells explained, there are two ways students can confront bullying, one way is to stand up against the bully and tell them to stop and the other is to speak out and tell the nearest adult about the bullying situation that was witnessed.
For additional information on Wells’ mission or for access to Wells’ bully resistant podcasts, visit his website at www.davebond.org.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.