Rich South band gets royal send-off to London
By STEVE METSCH email@example.com July 24, 2012 3:20PM
Bass drummer Aamir Bowens, 17, of Matteson, and others wear caps embroidered with London 2012 while performing with the Rich South High School marching band during a community send-off event before leaving on a trip to the Olympics in London Tuesday July 24, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Here are the Rich South High School band members heading to London:
Bryon Bender — cymbals
Aamir Bowens — bass drum
Velva Brown — tenor saxophone
Joshua Colbert — trumpet
James Cole — baritone horn
Taji Elemah — alto saxophone
Melina Evans — clarinet
Kyndle Hunter — alto saxophone
Kenneth McClinton — cymbals
Darren Pickett — bass drum
Elijah Scott — trumpet
Jazmine Short — clarinet
Geoffrey Watts — tuba
DeJon Weathersby — quad drums
Marquez Webster — snare drum
Jordan Williams — trumpet
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:17AM
Watching 16 of his friends and classmates Tuesday as they prepared for a trip of a lifetime, one couldn’t blame Charles Wilson if he felt a twinge of envy.
“It nips me in the butt a little bit, but it’s all about the money situation,” said Wilson, 18, a recent graduate of Rich South High School and a proud member of a marching band that is sending a handful of members to London to perform at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
Despite a year of fundraising efforts, the band was able to raise just $35,000, barely more than 10 percent of the $300,000 needed to send the entire 109-member band to London.
Instead, just 16, many of whose parents chipped in to make the journey possible, are making the trip.
On Tuesday, wearing a blue Rich South band T-shirt, Wilson was among about 100 at a send-off for the band held outside the Richton Park school. The band played six songs, including selections by Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and Chris Brown. The mood was festive as folks shook hands, slapped backs and took countless photos of the lucky 16.
Wilson shared well wishes with classmate and friend Geoffrey Watts, the lone tuba player making the trip.
“I believe Geoffrey’s money situation is a little better than mine. But I’m proud of him that he will represent the Class of 2012 and our friends who can’t go,” Wilson said.
Watts, who said he has a full-ride music scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, has no jitters about playing on the world stage when Rich South joins other bands to play the Olympic fanfare when the torch is lit Friday.
“I’ve been through this enough. I know what to expect,” Watts said.
“I feel pretty good. I get to represent my class. I’m the only (2012) alumni going. It’s very sad. I thought the whole band was going to go. I thought someone would say, ‘Oh, the band is going to the Olympics. That’s a big deal,’ ” Watts said.
That donor with deep pockets never showed up, but Wilson has no sour grapes.
“In the end, as long as one of us goes, the whole band is going,” said Wilson, of Richton Park, who will be looking for Rich South’s red, white and blue uniforms on TV Friday night.
Richton Park Mayor Rick Reinbold and village trustee Julian Alexander were among the well-wishers.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’ve already won the gold before leaving Richton Park. They’re acting as goodwill ambassadors for the school, the region and for America. Today begins the start of memories they’ll carry for a lifetime. We’re excited for them,” Reinbold said.
Alexander, who helped with fundraising efforts, said, “one thing for sure, for the 2016 Games, we have to start our fundraising earlier. We’ll start as soon as they touch down (in Chicago) on July 30,” Alexander said.
Four adult chaperones, including band director Y.L. Douglas, are paying their own way for the London trip, Douglas said.
“I’m sorry we can’t bring everybody,” Douglas said.
He refuted a suggestion that it may have been better to not send anyone if the whole band could not go.
“With an opportunity like this, you don’t know if it can happen again. As opposed to saying we all can’t go, I elected to say, ‘The ones who can’t go support the ones who can go.’ That’s what you see here today,” Douglas said.
Nikkita Foston, spokeswoman for Rich Township High School District 227, said she’s hoping other chances arrive in the future.
“Hopefully, this won’t be the last time. They’ve had a lot of national performances. Hopefully, they’ll have future chances,” she said.
Rich South will play at a birthday celebration honoring the late Bob Marley for the Jamaican team and will perform in Hyde Park during their stay in London.