Plans and arrangements for their big trip to Washington, D.C., are being finalized as members of the Cedaredge High School marching band and choir look forward to their by-invitation performance at the nation's Memorial Day celebration this year.
The community and the band members themselves have been working to raise necessary support for the $63,000 educational adventure that will include 41 members of the band and choir.
Their support-raising efforts as of last week have brought them within a few thousand dollars still needed to fully fund the trip.
"We are going," said Lesley Lewis, treasurer of the band parents organization. Lewis said that a total of $7,000 is still needed to reach the fundraising goal.
Their trip is being helped along in a major way by the proceeds from a community fundraiser held in Cedaredge on Feb. 20. At that event, members of the Elberta Rebekah Lodge #106 raised $1,564 at their benefit homemade biscuits-and-sausage gravy breakfast fundraiser. Rebekah Noble Grand Donna Pope presented a check for the amount to CHS band director Melissa Gross at the school last week.
The Rebekahs' helpers in staging the benefit fundraiser were Bailey Walker, Madison Bowen, Elle Hockersmith, Bryce Simler, Mariah Simler, Caitlyn Bowen, Samantha Ribbens, Niala Stair, Isaac Vader, and parents Annie Bowen and Robin Tullis.
It's probably difficult for some to decide which is the greater achievement -- the band and choir earning an invitation to participate in the Memorial Day event in Washington, D.C.; or the small, rural community that has come together in a mighty way to raise the funds necessary to see that its students get the chance of a lifetime to perform there.
Gross told the DCI, "I have been just consistently impressed with the dedication of the students and the community to the school and the music program here.
"It has been an amazing experience to see how the school and the community have come together to achieve it."
Parents, school alumni, community groups, a regional foundation, local business, and many others have helped with donations to the project.
Band and choir members themselves have also been involved in raising support for the trip. They have set up booths at local events and participated in other fundraising efforts. One example is a performance they gave recently at the Masonic Lodge which made a generous contribution, Gross said.
The group's musical prowess was also recognized by a performance of the national anthem at a Colorado Rockies game last summer.
The trip to D.C. will be a four-day, three-night odyssey. As arrangements stand now, when the time comes in May, the band and choir, along with adult chaperones, will travel by bus to the Front Range. There, they will spend a night in the band room at Ralston Valley High School where Gross herself graduated and is friends with the school's band director.
Their flight the following day will take them to D.C. and hopefully allow time for a bit of sightseeing. The Smithsonian Institution is number-one on the list of tourist stops for the local kids.
The nation's Memorial Day observance takes place over the entire Memorial Day weekend and at various venues. Gross said the CHS band and choir's performance will be on Sunday, May 29, at the National Air Force Memorial.
Gross said that the students' successes in performance competitions and the excitement of preparation for the Memorial Day events have already yielded a clear benefit in educational attainment and character development for the band and choir members. One example she cited was a recent combined performance of county high school music departments. The CHS students took a noticeable command and leadership role in the performance event, showing the championship qualities that come from being members of a winning and honored organization, Gross explained.
The Washington, D.C., trip and events associated with it "will help grow the CHS music program and take it to the next level. I am very proud," Gross said. "We give a huge thank you to the community."
Lewis said that before the band and choir leave for their Washington, D.C., journey they plan to give a marching preview of their Memorial Day performance. It would take place right down Main Street Cedaredge and conclude in Town Park. No date for that event has been set.
"The community has really stepped up for us in this project and would like to have this. And we want the community to see the kids' performance," Lewis said.
There will be another big fundraising event for the school music program coming up at the end of this month. It will be the annual Night Club, a dinner and entertainment event on March 30 at the school. Admission will be $10 for an evening of food and entertainment from 6 to 8 p.m.
Lewis also announced that the CHS music program has been selected for possibly another significant honor. It has been selected as a national semifinalist for a grant award from the Grammy Foundation. Lewis said she found information on the foundation's Enterprise Grant program. The students submitted a recording of their performance skills, entered the competition, and are now hopefully awaiting any word of a final cash award.
Funds that might come from the Night Club event or from a Grammy Foundation award would be allocated to the CHS music program including purchases of music, instruments and instrument repair, supplies, uniforms, and other costs, and would not go to the Washington, D.C., trip expenses, Gross explained.