The young and talented musicians of the popular Manta Ray Band are gearing up for 2014, with an upcoming competitive tour in Asia kicking off another exciting year for the band.
Saipan Southern High School’s Manta Ray Band musical director William DeWitt disclosed that the group has been invited to perform at numerous venues in Japan and Korea in March next year. This includes performances at Tokyo Disneyland, an exchange concert with a premier Japanese high school band, and an adjudicated festival concert featuring other award-winning Japanese ensembles. The group is also slated to do a charity event at the Seoul Children’s Hospital, as well as a public concert in Korea.
Also on its list is an opportunity to represent the CNMI Public School System next spring at a premier Asian music festival.
“Japan is home to the world’s most elite band programs and thus their high school bands justifiably take more pride in winning national events than international competitions,” according to DeWitt.
He said that, in a rare move by the qualification committee, the Manta Ray Band—considered a foreign group—has been invited to compete in an adjudicated event in Tokyo in March via World Projects, LLC. This is the same organization that hosted the Manta Band’s participation at the 2010 Carnegie Hall and the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Summer Olympic festivals.
“We are stoked at the chance to perform in arguably the world’s most competitive band environment. To be the best, you have to play against the best,” he said.
In addition to the band’s rigorous daily after-school rehearsals, its members and their parents are preparing for next year’s activities with a lineup of fundraising efforts. Last month the band raised more than $1,000. Another event next week (a school dance) is expected to raise another $1,000.
DeWitt said they have many more fundraisers that include rummage sales this month, raffle drawings in December, car washes in January, a dinner concert in February, and hopefully a prize-winning effort in the CNMI Got Talent 3 competition in December.
“We have typically relied on [education tax credit] donations for a third of our investment, student fundraisers for another third, and public support, such as financial backing from the Public School System for the remainder. We are hopeful that the CNMI community will join us enthusiastically once again in this effort to show the world how amazing our young people are!” said DeWitt.
He said the cost for the band’s tour is estimated at $3,500 per member, or $175,000 in total. Their first installment of $40,000 was due on Nov. 1. This will help with arrangements for hotels, ground transport, festival fees, instrument rentals, and logistics. With the Board of Education’s help, a $2,000 security deposit was paid in September to secure the band’s slot.
“At a time of economic challenge and government austerity, some may wonder whether it should be a priority to send our best and brightest to international competitions. I would respond by pointing out that there can be no better ambassador for the CNMI than young people shining brightly at what they do best, especially in the countries that represent our prime tourist market. We sincerely thank all of you who have helped us in the past and are considering a new donation this year! I know our kids will make you proud,” said DeWitt.