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Music's Helping Hand

Practice-a-thon brings hope to Bay High Band in Mississippi.

It is said that "the show must go on" but after the devastation from Hurricane Katrina the dream of performing in Florida for the small town high school band in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi was crushed.

Band members at Bay High School lost everything from musical instruments to uniforms to a music library during the storm and the dream they shared to play at Disney World in April seemed more like a pipe dream.

In steps Gay Maley of Maley's Music in McLean. "After the hurricane I kept thinking that there must be a school or music department that I could help. I asked a friend of mine who had returned from a needs assessment trip post Katrina."

Maley's inquiry led to Band Director Catchie Crider and the Bay High School band. Along with friend, Nina Gibson, a music and drama teacher at Montessori School of McLean who asked, "As a musician what can I do?" and the blessing from Montessori director Joan Parasine, the idea of a fund-raising Practice-A-Thon was born.

A Practice-A-Thon, like a Walk-A-Thon collects pledges for time practiced. Together students from Maley's Music and McLean Montessori hope to raise enough money to partially fund the band in anticipation of their Disney Trip and then some.

On news that strangers from the town of McLean, Va. intended to help the band, letters of love and stories recounting their trauma flooded Maley's Music and Montessori School of McLean. "The letters really made it real to our students," said Gibson, "Our kids are really working towards the goal."

Each story although unique, had a similar thread. "I was terrified ... we came out of the dark attic at one, for three days we were stranded, " said Margaret Worrel clarinet player at Bay High School.

Band member Howard recounts, "It took every bit of man inside of me not to cry ... I had lost everything. It means so much to me that you guys care enough about us." Even without uniforms and little equipment (a university sent some instruments their way) the band is their one area of normalcy and they are hanging on to it. Fourteen out of 20 seniors in the band have not been able to return to their homes and half of the band has relocated.

AS FOR FUNDRAISING, Crider said that they have received donations but are still shy of $5,000 for the April Disney trip. She is hopeful FEMA will cover the band uniforms but is very thankful for any donations sent that will improve the music department and provide a music experience for the kids.

"I can't thank you all in Virginia enough for what you are doing for us. It is awesome. We are all very grateful," said Crider.

Parasine said that she hopes to get some sponsors from "friends of our school" and former area politicians. "It is our hope that this will go out it waves. People will contact us or Maley's and contribute to the fund. I want people in Mississippi to know someone in this area cares about them."

"We are asking businesses and individuals to make donations and is challenging others to match," said Maley.