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Marching toward the future
Viking Band seeks grant from Web contest to buy new uniforms, instruments
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The East Hall High School band practices marching for the Children’s Christmas Parade. The band program has been nominated for a $50,000 grant through the Clorox Power a Bright Future Program - photo by Tom Reed

How to vote for the Viking Band

Visit powerabrightfuture.clorox.com or send a text that reads “1317pbf” to 95248. Anyone can vote once a day until Dec. 19. 

Students of the East Hall High School band marched around their school’s track last week blasting holiday tunes with a finesse that can only be earned through many hours of practice.

The band worked hard preparing for its performance Saturday in the Children’s Christmas Parade for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“We put a lot of work into this and we’re really well-known around the community for our band program. We’re excited about getting to go to Atlanta,” Dylan Dukes, 11th grade student, said.

While all of the students prepared for the honor to perform in the parade, not every students was able to go.

“We’ve got about 10 students who are not able to go on the trip with us because there are just not enough instruments for them,” Craig Cantrell, director of the East Hall Viking Band, said.

The school also lacks enough band uniforms to dress all of the more than 90 members.

But that could change with a little help from the community.

The school’s band was recently nominated for a chance to win a $50,000 grant from the Clorox Company’s Power a Bright Future grant contest.

The contest winner is selected by earning the highest number of votes. If the school wins the money, it plans to purchase items the band desperately needs, like additional new instruments and uniforms.

Some of the instruments students play are nearly 40 years old.

As of Friday, the Viking Band ranked No. 28 among the other schools across the country seeking the grant.

The band students have been voting for their school every day and are encouraging their classmates, friends and families to do the same.

“I really hope that we win it. We’ve tried so hard to get uniforms for the past couple of years and we still need hats, so it would be really good,” Dukes said.

Cantrell remembers asking the former band director, who served in that position when Cantrell himself was a band student at East Hall, about some of the older instruments.

“My band director started here in 1978 and I asked him about some of these instruments. He was like, ‘That instrument was here when I got here,’” Cantrell said laughing.

The repair shop Cantrell takes these older instruments often asks why he even bothers trying to fix them, he said.

“We’re still playing on that instrument and they’ve been repaired and repaired. It’s at the point now where I’ll take those instruments to the repair shop and they go ‘It’s like working every day for the last 40 years; you’ve got to retire,’” Cantrell said.

But in spite of the overworked equipment, the band has earned a solid reputation and routinely receives praise and recognition for marching festivals and competitions.

In 2010 the Viking Band placed first in competitions at the Lake Lanier Tournament of Bands and the Armuchee marching Invitational.

Over the years, the band has played halftime shows for the Atlanta Falcons and at Atlanta Braves games. It also has performed in some of the most prestigious parades and events.

Elliott Andrade, a 10th-grader, said he enjoys playing music in parades and shows with the band because it gives them an opportunity to show “what we’re all about.”

Cantrell said being in band helps students learn valuable life skills and provides experiences they might not come across otherwise.

“We’re helping each other out. We’re learning leadership, and how to be able to speak publicly and work together,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell said he hopes the band will be able to grow and continue to provide the same opportunities and more for future students and winning the grant would be a great step in that direction.

“That’s one of the goals we want to accomplish to be able to provide this sort of education for every child that wants to study music,” Cantrell said.

Students feel the same about the program’s potential to grow, given the right equipment.

“We have some very, very old instruments that are kind of hard to handle. I think it’ll be great thing for us,” Andrade said.

The public can vote once a day until voting closes Dec. 19 by visiting the Clorox website or by sending a daily text that reads “1317pbf” to 95248.

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