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Rich Central band feeling presidential

Shaun McClintsophomore plays tubwith fellow members Rich Central High School bas they practice school OlympiFields Illinois Friday January 4 2013.

Shaun McClinton, a sophomore, plays tuba with fellow members of the Rich Central High School band as they practice at the school in Olympia Fields, Illinois, Friday, January 4, 2013. The band is going to a competition in Washington, D.C., during the presidential inauguration. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 19, 2013 11:35AM



They may be blocks away and they may have to use binoculars, but members of the Rich Central High School band are determined to experience as much as they can Monday when President Barack Obama is sworn in for his second term.

“It’s going to be awesome witnessing history in the marking,” band director Phil Crews said. “Even if it’s in the vicinity, it will be electric for us all.”

The band is going to Washington, D.C. for Obama’s inauguration as well as to play at a nearby inauguration-themed high school band competition.

About 55 students from the Olympia Fields school will make the trip from Friday to Tuesday. It’s about a 12-hour ride each way by bus.

The band is to perform Saturday at the Presidential Inaugural Heritage Music Festival at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Baltimore. The school’s concert, jazz and marching bands, as well as the majorettes and color guard, will perform during the festival, which also features a dinner, dance and awards reception.

Rich Central will be one of four Illinois schools participating from among just 30 nationwide.

Crews said his school initially tried to get a spot in the official presidential inaugural parade, but it was not selected. More than 20,000 high school bands applied to be in the inauguration and only 20 or so were selected, Crews said.

About 10 chaperones will accompany the Rich Central students. The trip costs about $865 per person.

There have been fundraisers, Crews said, but each student is paying his or her own way.

“It’s not easy to raise money,” senior drum major Joy Amade said. “Everything we did, we worked hard for.”

Crews said the band will try to “get as close as possible to the (swearing-in) festivities.”

The band from Rich South High School, a sister school to Rich Central, went to Washington in 2009 to perform at the Presidential Inaugural Heritage Music Festival, but members watched the inauguration from their hotel rooms in nearby Virginia to avoid the crowds and freezing cold temperatures.

This will be the Rich Central band’s first big trip in several years. It previously played at the Cotton Bowl, the Chick Fil-A Bowl, and at Disney festivals.

Since this is a trip to the nation’s capital, the band will do its share of sightseeing as well. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and the Ford Theater, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, all are likely stops on the band’s journey.

Sophomore drum major Jaya Thomas, who also plays baritone and alto sax, said she looks forward to the band getting more exposure by playing at the event.

“High school bands don’t get the same type of recognition,” Thomas said. “People will be there to listen to you and it’s not just about the football team.”



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