John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee
South High School Band
“The South High Community School Band will serve as an official representative of the State of Massachusetts in commemoration of the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence”, stated John P. Wiscombe, president of the Music Celebration International, L.L.C. in a letter sent to Principal Maureen Binienda and to band director Johnetta Smith. Once again the South High band will represent our state in this national celebration for it was in 2012 that the band made Worcester proud as they represented Massachusetts in the National Independence Day Parade as part of the Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C.
Needless to say their teacher, Johnetta Smith, and the entire band made up of 87 student musicians are ecstatic about this once in a lifetime trip. Princilla Minka, Drum Major and a senior at the school, acknowledged, “Being someone who has never traveled outside of Massachusetts, the Philadelphia trip would mean getting to explore an area other than my little Worcester bubble. But most of all, this trip means being able to share our hard work, talent and music with people other than residents of the City of Worcester.”
Another senior student Travis Tran who plays the French Horn, was most excited about the opportunity to show off the band’s talents. He affirmed what other students felt when he declared, “The preparation for the trip will be one heck of a task, but I actually think having the entire band cooperate toward one goal will make all of us better musicians and consolidate our love of music lasting far beyond when it’s over.”
The group will leave on the morning of May 20th, a Friday, and return on Monday, the 23 of May. They will spend one day in Philadelphia and on the second day travel to Annapolis, Maryland. There they will see Fort McHenry where the words to the national anthem were written. Thus, this is also a learning opportunity for the students as they are able to explore first hand important historical sites in our nation’s history.
In Annapolis, at the U.S. Naval Academy they will play side by side with a navy ensemble and receive a clinic from one of the navy conductors. This clinic will give the students a chance to learn from a high caliber conductor who has brought the joy of music across the U.S. States.
Band Director Smith acknowledged, ”This is a concert tour, so the students will be completely focused on musicianship, as opposed to also being concerned about the quality of their marching… playing in Philadelphia for the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence will give these students the opportunity to contribute to this national commemoration.”
This hands on experience for the students without a doubt it will elevate their playing and their expectations of themselves. It’s an experience that they will be talking about for a long time.
The band has been persistent in giving back to the community, for under the direction of Ms. Smith, the South High band continues to give of itself to the district. Each year they march in the Columbus Day and St. Patrick’s Day parades and have received honors for a first place and third place finish. They have also played at civic events such as the Canal-o-Ween, Worcester State Homecoming, played at Unum, Sam’s Club and GoodGlove USA Grand Openings. They have also been involved in community events such as Breast Cancer Walk, Walk against Homelessness, and the Special Olympics Dance.
With passion and dedication South High School has built a remarkable music department in a large urban setting. It has given the students an opportunity to pursue music and experience its life-changing effects on their desire to go to college and to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their community.
However, this extraordinary experience will need the assistance of the community to make it happen for the school needs to raise a substantial amount of money to support this trip. It will take over $45,000 to cover the cost of the trip and the school has a number of fund raisers planned as well as reaching out to corporate sponsors. South High has a student body where 80% of its population is at or below the poverty level. However, Ms. Smith is undaunted by this issue for she vowed to do all she could to make it happen … “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will expand our perspectives and could ultimately change 87 lives… we can’t do it alone so we are reaching out to the community for assistance.”
A fund raiser is planned for tonight, January 30th, at the NU café at 335 Chandler Street. The café will donate 20% of the ticketed food sales to the band. They will also be involved in a fund raiser at Jillian’s located at 315 Grove Street on February 21st from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. This fund raiser is supported by one of the students’ parents, Christine Greenawalt. Christine has committed “The Girls” and the “Far from Eden” singers to perform at Jillian’s and believes that the community will respond with monetary contributions as well as items that can be raffled.
Please consider a donation for this wonderful project. This school has established a fundraising website page or the community can make a donation directly to the school and send a check to “South High Band Association”. It would be nice if all elected officials joined the bandwagon and reached out to these amazing students and made a donation as well. I know that I’m donating and hope others will follow the lead! Let’s do it for the students!
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