All week as they inched toward their goal, the band members' anxiety and anticipation grew in decibels of nervous energy. By yesterday morning, the word was out -- a reception Wednesday night sponsored by Mayor Marion Barry and his wife netted an estimated $1,800. That was less than the mayor had hoped to provide, but it was enough for the fund to reach the top.
The Cardozo High School Marching Band, with its 160 waist-high-stepping members, is headed for Pasadena, Calif., to perform in the 92nd Annual Tournament of Roses Parade Jan. 1.
It is the only band from the Washington area, one of only 10 outside California, the only one from the East Coast and the only predominantly black band in the parade.
Since March, when the band received its invitation, the Cardozo effort has become a rallying point for many Washingtonians anxious to support a worthwhile cause. The fund-raising effort has now netted several thousand dollars more than the $119,000 goal.
"When we heard the good news in band practice, people threw their music and hats up in the air," said clarinetist Lynda Jones, 16, an 11th grader. "It was pandemonium. I screamed and clapped my hands, and I've been smiling all day. We don't have to worry about money no more."
Ban Director Robert Gill called the fund-raising success a "mandate to go out and do a good job, a vote of confidence." Those votes came in large and small numbers -- $8,100 from the Post Office Employees Association, $10,000 raised from a benefit dinner sponsored by newscaster J.C. Hayward and Channel 9, $5,000 from the Baltimore-Washington Black Retailers Association, $436 from prison inmates at the Lorton reformatory and donations from elementary schoolchildren, PTAs and church groups, to name a few.
What had seemed improbable last spring suddenly was confirmed. World Airways Flight 33, leaving Dec. 29 from Baltimore-Washington International Airport for Los Angeles will whisk the Cardozo band members nearly 3,000 miles away to perform in the queen of processions, the 5 1/2 - mile-long Tournament of Roses parade, more commonly known as the Rose Bowl Parade.
"This will be my first time out of the D.C. area and the first time on a plane," said 18-year-old Antoinette Stewart, a flag twirler and band member for three years. "No one in my family has ever flown, and I'm terrified."
About 95 percent of the band members have never been on a plane before and many of them have never been outside of the metropolitan Washington area, according to Gill. They will perform at Disneyland, stay at the University of California in Los Angeles, and mix with other high school and college band members of different races, backgrounds and traditions. sThey will be largely on their own and treated as adults, perhaps for the first time in their lives, Gill said.
"We're going to go to Universal Studios and maybe be discovered," one band member said when Gill asked the band what it hoped the trip would offer. "We're going to see different people, learn new things." Another student said he looked forward to the "warm sunshine and the girls."
Inside the Cardozo High band room, where taped cardboard covers broken windowpanes, Gill, a Washington native son who knows how to herness the restless energy of inner-city youth, offered his own predictions and advice.
"Don't ever overlook the fact that this is still an educational trip," he said as band members fidgeted with their instruments."You're going to learn how to handle your own airplane tickets, talk to college recruiters and stay in a college dormitory that is so plush it has game rooms and carpeting in the rooms."
Band members "oohed" and "aahed" and looked at each other as if to ask whether all this could be happening to them. Many of the band members live along the 14th Street riot-scarred corridor, or in the housing projects of lower Shaw and as far away as Anacostia. They live in neighborhoods where the influences of rampant drug use and sales, other youth crime and dilapidated housing conditions have lured many a youngster down negative paths. Gill says about 70 percent of the band members come from one-parent, impoverished households.
"It might be sad to say this, but for many of them, this will be the biggest event in their lives," Gill said. "This will be something uplifting, something to show them that there is much more than what they see out here on these streets. This is a confusing time, a growing-up time for teen-agers as they approach adulthood. The parade and all the pubilicity has helped many of them to begin developing good self-image concepts."