Community News: South

SOUTH-CENTRAL : Lack of Funds May Rain on Their Parade

January 16, 1994|SANDRA HERNANDEZ

At 17, Billy Brown has already garnered invitations to play before thousands. Now he and the other members of the Washington High School marching band and jazz ensemble have received another: to take part next month in the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.

"From the way I'm dressed people might think I'm a gangbanger," said Brown, a lanky drummer who frowns with concentration as he practices. "But when they see the determination on my face and when I play, then they look at me in a different way."

The chance to play venues such as the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl or an L.A. Rams football game at Anaheim Stadium is one benefit of Washington's music program.

"When they played the Playboy Jazz Festival and were on that stage, they got to do what a lot of professionals still haven't gotten the chance to do: to share a stage with musicians like Branford Marsalis," said Fernando Pullum, director of the 130-member band and drill team.

Principal Marguerite LaMotte said the band needs more instruments and funds.

This month, several band members had to borrow instruments from other schools to participate in the city marching band championship, in which they placed first. "I watched some of the kids on the field playing imaginary instruments during rehearsal as if they had the real thing in their hands," LaMotte said.

A lack of funds also threatens to cancel their trip to New Orleans. Although students have raised about $20,000 through bake sales, raffles and donations, they still need $40,000 for transportation and additional instruments.

"It would be a shame if the kids don't get a chance to go," Pullum said.

Inside the small band room, students echo Pullum's words. Amid the sounds of impromptu jazz quartets, students use words such as discipline, sacrifice and respect to characterize their experience.

"You learn a lot about self-discipline," said Damien Crawford, 16, a trombone player. "When you have discipline here you learn to have discipline for yourself at home."

"And it keeps us busy," said Dontoe Phillips, 15. "When you get to go and play for a lot of famous people, how could you ever get bored?"

"Plus," said Antwan Rachal, 17, who plays the cymbals, "band can help you out in school because you have to have a C average, so you have to do well in order to stay in band. And then there are the scholarships you can apply for."

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