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Strike Up Kennedy High's Band

A freight carrier rescues the musicians' trip to Ireland by shipping their instruments free.

March 12, 2004|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

There once was a band

from O.C.

That was asked to perform

o'er the sea

But the group had bad luck

Their instruments were stuck

Until FedEx shipped them

for free.

And that's why a future commercial for the freight carrier might feature the 100-strong John F. Kennedy High School marching band from La Palma, performing Saturday in Limerick, Ireland.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday March 13, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Marching band -- In an article in some editions of Friday's California section about the John F. Kennedy High School band of La Palma performing in Ireland, the name of Henri Soucy, a parent who helped arrange the trip, was misspelled Sousy.

In the last 30 years, the school has been invited every four years to participate in several parades and concerts in the Emerald Isle. The student musicians were eagerly anticipating this year's tour, with appearances in Limerick and the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin.

Parent volunteer Henri Sousy had begun making arrangements two months ago with each of the three airlines involved in the trip, and everything seemed in harmony until two weeks ago.

One of the airlines notified Sousy that, because of new luggage restrictions in the wake of Sept. 11, the cost of shipping the instruments would be $1,500 more than expected.

Then a second airline gave Sousy more of the same bad news, and the cost of the trip started to look prohibitive.

Last week, Sousy contacted a freight carrier for help. But the company advised him Monday that it couldn't guarantee delivery of 2,300 pounds of sousaphones, saxophones and snare drums by today, when the students were scheduled to land in Dublin.

Enter 14-year-old band member Kathryn Vergara, who shared the heartbreaking news with her parents. They in turn called Grandpa: Tom Cantarano, a retired FedEx Corp. pilot. His wife, Betty, told him, "Call your friends at FedEx and see what they can do."

On Tuesday, calls flew up the chain of command to an executive vice president who ordered FedEx to the rescue. The only caveat: FedEx would be allowed to cite the experience for publicity.

Jeffrey Burnam, an international sales executive for FedEx, fine-tuned the final arrangements. "I was in band," he said. "I know what would happen if I don't have an instrument. I can't compete. It's a wasted trip."

And on Wednesday, the instruments were winging over the Atlantic, a full day ahead of the band.

"I will stand on a street corner and talk FedEx up if you want," Sousy said Thursday as he loaded the musicians aboard buses for Los Angeles International Airport. FedEx, he said, was "doing the impossible."

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