Friday, April 04, 2008

Detroit MLK HS Band Going to the Olympics

My old roommate marched in the Rose Parade in Pasadena her senior year in high school. She still talks about it 23 years later.

This is one trip these kids will never forget.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's $10,000 gift Thursday put the Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School Band over its fund-raising goal for a planned trip to China this summer.

So much so, in fact, that their tearful band director, Victoria Miller, announced they will be going to the Olympics in August, instead of a less-expensive trip already planned for July.

"People have put us over the top," Miller said. "I got the signal and we're going to go for the gold. We are going to be front and center on the world stage."

The band had already been invited to perform at a music festival in Beijing this summer and was well on their way to raising the funds for that trip. They faced a difficult choice when they were invited to the Olympics. Yesterday's announcement sealed that decision.

The 60 marchers jumped up and down Thursday when Gov. Jennifer Granholm showed up at the school to present a $10,000 check from her campaign fund for the trip -- bringing the total funds raised to $289,631.03, far more than the $240,000 the band needed to perform in a pre-Olympics concert in Beijing in July.

The group received an invitation just two weeks ago to perform during the Olympics in August, causing a dilemma because the Olympics will cost about $90,000 more. But flanked by the governor and Detroit Public Schools Superintendent Connie Calloway, band director Victoria Miller announced Thursday that the band will "go for the gold."

Watch video of very happy kids here.

One problem - the booking company is threatening to sue the band for canceling the original trip.

That decision will come with a price, according to John Wiscombe, president of Music Celebrations International, which booked the band for a July 1-7 trip to Beijing in December. He said a cancellation policy is clearly outlined in the band's contract with his company, and it will cost roughly $36,000-$40,000 for them to get out of the deal.

Miller said the band will lose some money, but she never signed the final contract. She paid the company $8,200, and that's all she expects to lose.

The Skillman Foundation has raised big money for the band, and they offer a solution.

Carol Goss, president of the Skillman Foundation, which has contributed thousands to the trip, was taken aback by news of the cancellation fees.

"Oh, my gosh. It's definitely an issue," Goss said. "I don't think anybody would want them to use that to pay a penalty.

"It's very disappointing. These young people just don't get these kinds of opportunities. Maybe the company would be generous and philanthropic and decide to cover that cost."

Maybe they will. Publicity alone would be worth it, and the publicity cuts both ways here.

Good luck to the band - they still have to raise about $90 thousand or so for the Olympics. Donations for the trip can be made to: MLK Band, 3200 E. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48207.