The Railroaders marching band is scrambling to raise money to send as many of the group’s 50 young musicians as possible on a trip to Southern California in March 2012. There they plan to visit colleges, speak to businesspeople with Disney about what it takes to make music for a living and see a place that isn’t far on the map but for many of them is worlds away.
“I thought it would be cool because not only do they get to go to Disneyland but they get to see a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be a studio musician and just see other colleges,” band teacher Andew Patrick said. “And, for a lot of these kids, get out of Nevada because most of them have never been out of Sparks.”
That includes students such as 14-year-old freshman Jorge Torres and 16-year-old junior Liliana Mendez-Chinchilla. Jorge is one of about 30 band members who are in just their first or second year of high school.
Jorge, like many of his bandmates, said he wouldn’t be able to afford even a portion of the $740 cost per student for the trip. He has been playing trumpet for the last three years and hopes one day he can make a career out of either playing music or mixing it as a DJ.
“There’s a lot of different types of music so it’s difficult to know what type of job to get if you want to be a musician,” he said, taking a break Thursday afternoon from rehearsing for Friday’s homecoming performance.
Liliana said all of the students are dying to go on this trip, though only about five are sure they can afford to go. She is the color guard captain and plays flute in the school’s concert band. Whether she makes a career out of it or not, she said she wants music to always be part of her life.
“This trip would mean so much and it would be a great experience because we’d get to work with people who are so much higher up and it would help us as a band,” she said.
Band members have been fundraising since the summer — including working at the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off — and will hold a benefit concert dinner on Nov. 5 where students will perform, serve food and hold a silent auction and raffle.
During the four-day trip, the students plan to tour Hollywood and Beverly Hills, Calif., visit several colleges to gather information and go to Disneyland to perform, talk about careers in music and, of course, ride the rides.
“It exposes them to what’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” school principal Wanda Shakeenab said. “They would see what’s expected of them once they move on past Sparks High School. It would also engage them in conversations where they can learn more about music and is this the right road I want to travel. It’s going to open them up socially, emotionally, intellectually, as well as with their music skills.”
“The biggest reason for planning this trip and doing this, again, is most of them have never been out of even Sparks and they don’t know what’s out there and that if they really work hard they could become a professional musician,” Patrick said. “They’re not lacking anything besides the knowledge.”
A graduate of Douglas High School and the University of Nevada, Reno, Patrick began working at SHS five years ago after completing his master’s degree in music education. At that time, the Railroader band had half the number of participants it has now. With so many freshmen and sophomores, the band is very young but very hard-working, he said.
“But in two years they’re going to be rockin’ it,” Patrick said.
While the underclassmen will see this trip as a preview of things to come, for seniors such as Noe Espana it will be a way to cap off four years of effort.
“It’s like icing on the cake,” said Noe, who is the band’s drum major, student body president, captain of the soccer team and more. “It’s toward the end of the year so you’re getting all the stress out of the way with graduation and to top it off we have a trip to California where we go and play music. It’s really nice, it’s good to have that stress relief at the end of the year.”
But the trip is far from set in stone. Noe, Jorge and Liliana all indicated that they’d need to raise the entire $740 to pay for it. Patrick said many of his students’ families don’t have the kind of money it takes to pay for such extracurricular activities.
“Families want to support them, they want to be here for them but a lot of them are two-parent families working two jobs just trying to make rent, trying to pay the bills,” he said.
That doesn’t mean the band members are any less passionate.
“Being from Sparks High, people know we might not be the best school or the richest school or something like that, but playing out here we have a lot of fun and make friends,” Noe said.
“My mom would rather have me out here doing this than, you know ...” Liliana said.
For more information on the band’s fundraising, call 353-5550.