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SOUTH-CENTRAL : Aid Is Helping Band Go Marching Off

January 30, 1994|SANDRA HERNANDEZ

Fernando Pullum doesn't make promises he can't keep.

So when students in his Washington High School marching band learned last fall that they had been invited to play in the New Orleans' Mardi Gras parade next month, Pullum was reluctant to tell them start packing.

But last week Pullum and his students began packing boxes after raising nearly $50,000 through bake sales, concerts and donations.

"It's going great here," said Pullum.

"The kids' spirits are very high. We're packing and measuring the cases for their instruments and weighing them for the airline. And that makes (students) see the trip as a reality now."

Fund-raising took off over the last two weeks as the 130-member band and drill team garnered nearly $30,000.

Much of it came from donations, including $15,000 in matching funds from the Weingart Foundation, $7,000 from area churches and $500 from the city's general purpose fund, Pullum said.

The band still remains about $10,000 short of its $60,000 goal.

"One of the churches is across the street and they hear us play all the time," said Pullum, after he approached the church for help.

Robert Rogers, a pastor of Faithful Central Missionary Church at 6200 S. Hoover St., said his church pledged $6,000 for the trip.

"They're great. The competition is in trouble when they play," Rogers said. The church rents the school's auditorium and has sponsored scholarships.

"It's part of looking at a larger issue of commitment to this community. And we know there are budget restrictions on the school board, so we've chosen to help be part of the solution," Rogers said.

Principal Marguerite LaMotte acknowledged that during a time of shortages, the money raised for the trip could have been used for schoolbooks.

"Sure, you think about it and you say, '$60,000 is a lot of books,' " said LaMotte.

"But this is a different type of 'books' that will leave an indelible impression on the kids."

And the band's fund-raisers have attracted some big names in music. Linda Hopkins and Billy Childs were among the jazz notables who joined the band during a fund-raiser this month that pulled in nearly $6,000.

"I called and begged the artists," said Pullum, a musician who has played with Childs. "We may even do 'The Arsenio Hall Show' before we go."

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