Carver Band seeking public’s help
What began with a single donation has evolved into a community-wide movement to support Carver High School’s marching band.
Former Planters/Lifesavers executive John Polychron donated his old trumpet to the Marching Yellowjackets in August, setting off a flurry of activity that has exceeded Band Director Juan Eckard’s wildest expectations.
“We call him the fallen angel,” Eckard, a native of Charlotte, said of Polychron. “He was our angel that dropped in out of the sky, and ever since then, the ball just started rolling. It just means so much to me.”
Polychron, a native of Long Island, N.Y., has many fond memories of playing the trumpet, his flair for which once landed him on the national stage as a contestant on “The Original Amateur Hour” television show with Ted Mack. When he decided to part with the instrument, Polychron said he wanted to make sure it ended up in the hands of someone who truly needed it, but he wasn’t prepared for how great the school’s need was. Students were having to share instruments, and some were in such bad shape they had to be held together with duct tape.
“He was so happy; It was more than I expected,” the grandfather of two said of Eckard’s reaction. “…(With) the budget constraints, they can’t buy instruments, and so I thought well we’ve got to do something to help.”
Polychron, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, relayed the story to a friend at a local news station, and soon the donations were rolling in from seemingly every corner of the community.
[pullquote]“We probably have gotten 28 instruments donated so far, and they’re still coming,”[/pullquote] Eckard reported. “We have some people that are buying tickets to the benefit, and all of that money goes to the band.”
Former Band Director Rudolph Boone Sr. was among those who resolved to help the historically black high school, first by calling on local churches to ask their congregations to consider making a contribution to the program, and following it up by coordinating a raffle and benefit concert, which is slated for Sunday, Sept. 29 in the school’s auditorium. Supporters may also contribute to the fundraising campaign at designated levels, including “Whole Note” ($1,000) “Half Note” ($500), “Quarter Note” ($100), “Eighth Note” ($50) and “Sixteenth Note” ($25). Boone, a former member of the U.S. Army band, has set a goal of raising $10,000 for the ’Jackets.
“I think the community should support it because it is a community school. It’s really one of the smallest and has the greatest need,” remarked the former trumpet player. “…I believe there are people out there who don’t think we can raise $10,000 so I would just like to go over that figure so we can show that it can be done.”
Boone, an alumnus of North Carolina A&T State University, said school bands often struggle to make ends meet in lower wealth communities, but the situation Eckard faced was worse than he expected, exceeding the conditions he experienced at the school during segregation.
“I was surprised at the degree at which he’s experiencing these things,” he said of Eckard’s shortages. “I thought it would be the same as when I was teaching, not worse.”
Eckard said the award winning band has become adept at making do with whatever resources it has, but he is thrilled that the students will have
access to new resources as a result of the effort.
“That’s something that surprises people – we’ve done very well. We’ve gone to competitions and come back with first place trophies, but since it happened, everybody has come out,” he said of the fundraising effort. “It has been incredible.”
The benefit concert will feature performances by local favorites such as The Healing Force drumming and storytelling troupe, guitarist Charles Burns and songstress Janice Price-Black. Many of Boone’s former students are lending their support to the effort. The grandfather of two says he is happy to support Carver and its students in their efforts to continue the Marching Yellowjackets’ proud tradition.
The campaign has been so successful that Eckard has designated the money raised during the fundraisers for scholarships to cover band fees for students whose families can’t afford them and operating costs, such as transportation and food for band members when they travel to competitions.
“We have enough instruments now, but we’re still continuing to fund raise because we need operating costs, and we need to repair some of the old instruments,” Eckard explained. “Those types of things take money, and we just haven’t had the money for it.”
Eckard, a former Winston-Salem State University drum major, said the outpouring of community support has emboldened and encouraged his students.
“These instruments are coming in and they see alumni that’s really wanting to do something for them,” he related. “The kids get to see that people care about them.”
The raffle and benefit concert will be held Sunday, Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. in the Carver auditorium, 3545 Carver School Road. Tickets are $10 per person. For more information, contact Boone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-767-4087.