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2013 cruise

July 16, 2012 by Loretta Cantey Conyers (Register to contact)

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Please join us in 2013 for a cruise celebrating all that will be 60 years old either this year or next year. Contact Elease Fulton or Loretta Cantey ar ***** ASAP. Thank you

Manning High School Band performs in Obama Inaugural Parade.

February 27, 2009 by Rob Thompson (Register to contact)

MANNING — With more than 30 years experience as a band instructor, Ray Francis’s fingers can easily tickle a trumpet’s keys, work a woodwind or finger a flute.

But recently, Francis’s fingers have been tapping on a computer keyboard, searching the Internet for discounted musical instruments for “his kids.”
“Last night, I found some good deals on eBay,” Francis said Monday as he watched “his kids” — the 85 members of the Manning High School band — stride around the school parking lot. “I need to buy a whole new drum line.”

The pressure is on as Francis and the Manning High Band are the only S.C. group picked to participate in President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural parade in Washington D.C. next month. They leave for the nation’s capital Jan. 18.

In between marathon practices — including ones during the holiday vacation — the students and Francis are working to raise the $40,128 to make the trip.

Thanks to a bake sale as well as the generosity of church groups, businesses and lots of strangers, they’ve raised about half of the amount needed thus far.

“Most of my kids come from single (parent) homes and a lot of them (qualify for) free and reduced-priced lunch so they can’t put much money into it,” Francis said, who has been the school’s band instructor for three years. “I’m hoping that everyone in South Carolina will step up and help.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these kids.”

Donations are going toward the trip but Francis is quietly keeping his fingers crossed that they’ll be enough to also replace some of the band’s instruments, especially the sousaphones, which are held together with duct tape.

“That won’t look good on national TV,” Francis said, noting a new sousaphone costs about $5,000.

Several students like Kevin Levy are lucky enough to own their own instruments.

For his 18th birthday in October, his parents surprised him with a new saxophone, replacing the one he’d played since 4th grade.

“I love it,” said Levy, who hopes to earn a music scholarship to college next year. “I play it every Sunday in church.”

Whether equipped with new instruments or old ones, band members don’t seem to mind. And they don’t seem to mind the 30-degree temperatures during rehearsals either. Or the long practices with no lunch break while their classmates are on winter break.

They’re starry eyed over getting to play at all.
“People look down on us because we’re a small band. Because we’re a primarily black band,” said Candace Mack, a senior clarinet player who will attend Atlanta’s Georgia State University in the fall. “For someone from the outside to look out at all of the bands and choose us, it’s amazing.”

The day Francis got the news the band had been selected to participate in the parade, Kendra Neal, a junior flutist, was home sick.

“My phone started ringing and ringing. It was other band members telling me we’d made it, that we were going to D.C.,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. Our band over all the other bands? It’s so exciting. And we’re such a little town.”

“I was so excited I got out of bed and came to band practice that afternoon anyway,” she said.

The inaugural parade will mark the fourth time Manning has performed for Obama.

The band plans to play the “The Final Countdown,” one of Obama’s favorites. At least that’s what an Obama staff member told Francis the last time the band played for the president elect.

Leading up to his S.C. primary win last January, the students played at several Obama events including the Oprah Winfrey rally in Columbia.

“(Obama) shook hands with all of the kids and talked to them,” Francis said. “He was so good to them and took pictures with them. He got my vote right then.”

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