The members of the Pittsburg Pirate Marching Band are tuning up for the performance of their young lives – if they can afford to get there. The award-winning Pirates are the only high school marching band west of the Mississippi invited to perform at the coveted parade. It is an honor not lost on these young musicians.
"I think it's bigger than the Super Bowl," said band member Fernando Lozano. "I think this is like the president's election. This is big for us."
They have clearly got the talent, but right now are $80,000 short of what they need to send all 170 band members to New York in November. Band director Jennifer Martinez is a graduate of the program, which requires band members keep up their grades in all their classes.
"The kids know this is an elective class and it's a privilege to be here, and so they work extremely hard," said Martinez.
Saturday night, another Pittsburg High graduate, long-time East Bay Latin band leader, Pete Escovedo, will headline a benefit concert for the band. That should help, but these kids know it is going to take even more contributions to pay for their trip of a lifetime.
"If we don't have enough money to go, it's like we did a lot for nothing," said band member Alek Sheffler.
"It'd be real sad if we've come this far, to not even be able to make it there," said drum major Dominic Escajeda.
The band program at Pittsburg High School has been able to thrive despite all the cuts to music programs at public schools in California. They have done that through the generous support of parents, local businesses and private donors, as well as the hard work and dedication of the students.
For more information on the benefit concert featuring Escovedo, plus other fundraising efforts for the Pittsburg High School band, visit www.phspiratesmusic.org