Harding University High School’s Marching Band of Gold – to participate in the 56th Presidential Inauguration – is closing in on its fundraising goal.

The band has raised just under $40,000 of the $50,000 it needs for the trip to Washington, said Anthony Jones, Harding’s director of bands.

“Alumni, businesses have come in and said ‘Hey we really appreciate what you’re doing,’ ” said Jones, who has taught at Charlotte Mecklenburg schools for 22 years, 15 of them at Harding. “The money goes to buses, lodging, food, instrument repair. I’ve been surprised and overwhelmed by (the money donated).”

As Inauguration Day draws near, additional help is coming from community leaders and others seeking to assist.

City Councilman Anthony Foxx has announced a fundraising party for Saturday, hours before the band’s halftime performance at the Carolina Panthers’ home playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The party is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Excelsior Club, 921 Beatties Ford Road. A football autographed by Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith will be auctioned off, according to the Charlotte Observer.

A second fundraiser, sponsored by IT Factor Media Group and Charlottevibe.com, is scheduled for Jan. 15 at Tempo, 4809 Wilkinson Blvd.

Organizers say they have scheduled four local comedians to perform that night. They also have invited players from the Panthers and the Charlotte Bobcats. The event will include several raffles.

The event will run from 8 p.m. to midnight. Admission is $10.

“This will be a night where we ask the community to show how much they care about our future and provide an historic opportunity that many can only dream of,” said Felicia Fletcher, who owns the IT Factor Media Group.

The 110-member band is one of 200 school bands chosen from more than 1,300 that applied to play at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration. The performers already have had a taste of what’s to come: They played for Sen. Obama’s local rally. After that, the band submitted a video of a performance and Jones filled out a questionnaire to apply. Meanwhile, they’re getting plenty of practice. Tonight they perform for a Harding basketball game and Saturday they’re part of the show at the Panthers game.

On Dec. 19th, the students will board buses at 2 a.m. to roll off to Washington. They’ll march down Pennsylvania Avenue after the president has been sworn in. One of the songs they’ll perform is “Get Ready” by the Temptations. Jones said he picked the piece to symbolize the new administration’s stance for change.

The expected crowd of millions doesn’t worry Jones. “I’ve played in front of thousands – it actually makes me excited,” he said. “I like having the kids in that kind of spotlight so they can show off what they’ve been doing.”

Ramon Jordan, 15, plays tuba in the band.

“I’m not nervous,” Jordan said. “I think it’s going to be a great experience to see the first African-American president.”

Harding Principal Alicisa Johnson said many of the band members, most of whom are ninth and 10th graders, have never been to Washington, but they are already used to performing under pressure.

“They practice all the time. They go somewhere every week,” said Johnson. “They are very disciplined.”

If donations to the band exceed the goal, the money may be used for scholarships or to aid another school that’s been chosen for the inauguration, Johnson said. A band committee is discussing that question now.

“The public has been very generous in donating,” she said. “We are very excited.”

Make check payable to Harding Band Association
Mailing address: P.O. Box 667773, Charlotte, NC, 28266
For more information: 980-343-6007

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