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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Manta Band struggles to close funding gap for Asian tour
»Over a hundred musicians in a free holiday concert tonight

The island’s most popular musical group, Manta Ray Band, is struggling to close its funding gap for their upcoming competition tour in Asia. As of Monday, the band is still short of $100,000 for their Asian tour slated for March in Japan and South Korea.

Musical director and conductor William DeWitt disclosed that 42 highly qualified students have been working diligently for the tour and will each invest $1,000 of their own money on top of the fundraising activities they are currently involved with as a group.

DeWitt said the band was recently informed that the Public School System will not be contributing to the group’s funding needs due to budget constraints.

The Manta Band—to be able to join the tour—must pay all their travel bills before the end of January 2014.

DeWitt said he is currently awaiting a response from the Legislature and Gov. Eloy S. Inos about possible funding support from the government. DeWitt, meantime, acknowledged the help provided by the Arts Council, which recently sponsored the band to perform at the Thursday Street Market and caroling at various agencies this week. He specifically recognized Arts Council director Angel Hocog.

Saipan Tribune learned that the Manta Band itinerary in Japan and Korea 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.

DeWitt earlier said the group aims to raise $175,000 for the tour. The group paid last month the first installment of $40,000, which will help with arrangements for hotels, ground transport, festival fees, instrument rentals, and logistics. A security deposit donated by the Board of Education was also made in September to secure the band’s slot.

Free holiday concerts

To boost the holiday spirit on island, the Manta Band will once again offer free holiday concerts starting tonight, Dec. 17.

The group is slated to perform at the Saipan Community School campus starting at 6pm tonight. This event is jointly presented by the Saipan Pacific Winds community concert band and the award-winning Saipan Southern High School Advanced Band 2 ensemble. It is hosted and sponsored by the Saipan Community School and their principal, Bobby Winkfield.

“In addition to celebrating the wonderful Christmas music both bands will share, several small instrumental ensembles will entertain the audience as well. The Pacific Winds portion of the concert will commemorate their 20th anniversary as a band.  Although I am the band’s founder, my co-conductor, Ms. Nierras, has been with us for the past 10 years and will join me at the podium for the evening’s repertoire,” said DeWitt.

The cash and prize drawings for the Manta Band fundraiser will also be done that evening. The band initiated the raffle to raise funds for their tour in Japan and Korea. Prizes include a $3,000 cash grand prize, a $1,500 baby grand, and $1,000 cash prize as well more than 60 gifts and gift certificates.

Tomorrow, Dec. 18, the group is scheduled to perform at the Saipan Southern High School cafeteria at 6pm.

“In conjunction with the SSHS’ PTSA meeting, the Manta Band is pleased to present its annual holiday concert featuring the Beginning Band (50 members), Intermediate Band (25 members), Advanced Band 1 (40 members), 8 small ensemble performances by Advanced Band 2 members, and a special appearance by famed Korean pianist Ju Eun Lee from Chang Won University in South Korea,” DeWitt said.

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