You could call it every marching band's dream -- a call from the White House, an invitation to play in the Inaugural Parade. It's not the kind of thing that usually happens to a school in a tiny coal mining town in Kentucky. But sometimes, these dreams do come true.
Letcher County Central High School is in Whitesburg, Kentucky; a map dot most people don't know exists, a town hard-hit by a struggling economy, where music thrives despite high levels of poverty. The school's marching band was one of a handful out of thousands who were picked to perform in the Inauguration Day Parade in Washington, D.C. on January 21. Their Junior ROTC Honor Guard will also be performing. The community is ecstatic, but there is one thing that stands in the way of their trip: Money.
Jason Griffith, the director of the LCCHS marching band, says students, families, businesses and local media have all come together to try and raise enough money to take the 80-plus group to Washington. So far, they have raised a little less than $50,000 dollars, but are hoping to get $70,000. It's a tall order, but even in one of the poorest areas of Kentucky, Griffith hopes the excitement and the spirit of the community will carry them through.
"The staff has been great, the administration has been super," he says. "Our economy is 95% driven by the coal industry, and we've taken quite a hit the last several years. Our people have been hurting, and it has been wonderful that companies, our staff, our parents have come together to help students learn the love and joy of music."
Clearly, to score an invitation from the White House, a band has to be pretty darn good, and the LCCHS band has come a long way to prove their mettle.
"A few years ago, we didn't have much of an instrumental music program," Griffith says. But since 2006, the Letcher County band program has been awarded several VH1 Save the Music Grants, and as the years passed, the numbers of students in music programs grew. "The first year, we had about 50 kids," says Griffith. "Then 150, then 200. We have about 400 kids right now. Things are really moving." The bands have also snagged several awards, including a Kennedy Center Honorable Mention.
And now, they are but several thousand dollars away from another triumph, not just for the band, but for every student, every parent, and every teacher in Letcher County who has kept the music alive.
"This is a dream come true. This is something that happens to some other school," says Griffith. "But we're this little bitty school in a poor part of the country. Nothing like this has ever happened here! How in the world did this happen?"
UPDATED: Since we started covering this story last week, the band has raised just over $60,000! That means they have just under $10,000 to go. Here are some links to help out and spread the word:
If you'd like to contribute, there is a PayPal account set up for the band.
You can also send donations to the address below, made out to "LCCHS Inaugural Parade."
224 Parks Street
Whitesburg, KY 41858
You can also call the school at 606-633-2339 or visit the band program's Facebook page for more information.