School band lacks funds for music festival

February 19, 2010 5:58:13 PM PST
Vallejo has had some tough times recently, but there is a bright spot -- a high school marching band that is a goodwill ambassador and has a big dream.

Music has brought together the students at Jesse Bethel High School.

"It's a sense of community and they have that and they do work together and they set goals together," Music Director Ken Smith said. Smith has been the band director since the school opened in 1998.

"It doesn't make me feel like an individual person playing in the band, but as one, a family, with these students," senior Regine Alojado said.

They appear in competitions almost every weekend.

In band there is a sense of value, priorities and positive influences.

"You can say it's my anti-drug, it really keeps me away from trouble; all of my friends in [color] guard are basically my friends in school," senior Justine Cabugos said.

These are students who are defying the odds. For them, band provides an alternative in a town that has been berated by bankruptcy and crime.

The band has been invited to appear in the Hawaii Invitational Music Festival in April, but it takes money -- a lot of it. They are $20,000 short with a deadline looming next Friday.

Smith admits the timing is wrong economically. The booster group, parents who finance most of the music program, has stepped up and provided much of the money, but they need help.

"It not just having a place to go or place to be, but this gives them a real feeling of accomplishment," parent Tracee McDonnell said.

They are so close and to not go would be defeating.

What this band has been able to do against odds is what keeps Smith going.

"They just inspire me; they make me want to come back, I look forward to coming to work," Smith said.