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No Funds, So Band Has to Postpone Carnegie Hall Trip

November 16, 1987

BATESVILLE, Miss. (AP) _ A high school band that hoped to be the first from Mississippi ever to play at Carnegie Hall has been forced to postpone its trip to New York because of a lack of funds.

″We didn’t get any response,″ said Ken Lewis, band director for South Panola High School. ″We wrote letters to 100 foundations. They all came back negative.″

The 132-member band had counted on raising at least a third of the $70,000 needed to fund the trip from foundations in Mississippi and other states. The other money would be raised locally.

When the hopes for foundation money fell through, the band didn’t bother to solicit funds from the community, Lewis said: ″They had already come up with $20,000 for our trip to the Cotton Bowl.″

It was at the 1987 Cotton Bowl Parade that Peter Tiboris, conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, spotted the South Panola Band. He invited the band to play in next spring at the Third Annual American Youth Music Debut Series at Carnegie Hall.

Thinking the dream of playing in the famed concert hall was doomed, Lewis called Tiboris to cancel.

″I won’t let you do this,″ Tiboris said. ″Why don’t you shoot for next year?″

″Well, great,″ Lewis responded. ″Put us down for the spring of 1989.″

Now Lewis has grand ideas for raising $70,000.

″We haven’t tapped the Fortune 500 yet,″ he said, adding that the band will seek money from corporations across the state and the nation - ″Anybody that’s big enough to donate money.″

There’s even talk of a media blitz in early 1988.

″If we could just put our plea out across the state and receive $1 from each family, we might raise thousands of dollars,″ Lewis said.

The invitation to play at Carnegie Hall might not have come if it weren’t for a curious band booster who wondered how bands are selected to play in the Cotton Bowl Parade.

The booster checked on the requirements and the band quickly sent in its application, including history and recommendations from three universities.

The band received an invitation and was shown in parade highlights on national network news.

But travel to more big tournaments and parades will have to wait, Lewis said. ″We’re kind of shooting for New York. We don’t want to spend any extra money.″

Band members don’t mind. The thought of going to Carnegie Hall has them ready to sacrifice.

″It makes us realize that all this hard work has finally paid off,″ said 16-year-old Liz Woodard, drum major and French horn player. ″I’m real excited.

″The concert is a one-in-a-10 million opportunity.″

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