Portland high school band tunes up for an 8-hour jam
The beat will go on, and on, and on at Cleveland High School this Friday, Oct. 4, when students in the band program play for eight continuous hours during a play-a-thon.
This year will mark the fifth iteration of the play-a-thon fundraiser, which was introduced by Cleveland High band director Gary Riler as a twist on the telethons of the yesteryear, which saw listeners and viewers call in with donations during a live broadcast.
Starting at 3:30 p.m., students will play in back-to-back continuous performances, ranging from jazz ensembles, to free jams, to a collaborative pep band performance, until around 11:15 p.m.
A GoFundMe page was launched in conjunction with the play-a-thon, in hopes of garnering donations during the eight-hour performance.
The Play-a-thon is the main fundraiser for CHS Bands and is the primary source of operating expenses for the band program.
Cleveland's band program receives no direct funds from the school district. Riler said the annual fundraiser is one of the few ways his program, which has nearly 180 students this year, can afford to travel and cover other program-related costs.
How will it work?
This Friday, starting at 3:30 p.m., band students will kick off the night-long event at the Cleveland High School auditorium with a half-hour set, followed by back-to-back performances until around 11:15 p.m.
Those who want to drop in and watch part of, or all of the sets, can do so.
Viewers can also watch from home via live video feed linked from the GoFundMe page. Viewers are encouraged to donate prior to the performance, or while they watch, and note the name of the player they are donating on behalf of. Students are eligible for prizes for the largest amount of money raised, most donations, and for participating in the eight-hour event.
"It's a typical concert thing, except it just keeps going and going," Riler said. "Everyone's learning about four songs or so, and they've done it in a month, which is pretty tight." Despite limited rehearsal time, Riler's confident his students can pull it off, thanks to the help of several behind-the-scenes parent volunteers.
"In the background, I have a huge group of parents who are feeding them dinner in shifts and giving them snacks," Riler said. That's in addition to the Friends of Cleveland Band fundraising group and others running the web and social media presence to drive online contributions.
By Wednesday morning, the 2019 play-a-thon page brought in just over $9,360 toward the $25,000 goal.
It's a hefty, but necessary benchmark.
"Just for transporting my kids, I have to pay $8,000 for it, even if it's a school bus," Riler noted. Between performances, competitions and participation in the annual Starlight Parade, which requires several buses to get students downtown, it costs thousands each year in transportation costs alone, Riler noted.
Band students typically pay a $75 annual fee to cover instrument fees. There are uniform costs, sheet music fees, and suit rental fees on top of that.
In the end, the students aren't just learning to read sheet music.
"They're learning to be responsible and accountable to others, because your performance affects everyone," Riler said. "We work on character building a lot, and doing the right thing when no one's looking. The discipline of practice, the discipline of learning a part. ...There's a lot of leadership that I've built into my program, whether its running a section or being in charge of a team to clean up an area.
Donate or join in
To donate, visit the CHS band GoFundMe page
Want to watch live?
Performances start at 3:30 p.m. at the Cleveland High School auditorium, 3400 S.E. 26th Ave.
As planned, a mix of new and senior band students will combine their talent for the first two performances, starting at 3:30 p.m. By 5:30 p.m., a combo of mixed group and jazz performers will team up, followed by a jazz lab performance, a combo segment, then a 7:30 jazz ensemble performance. Viewers tuning in via live stream can catch an 8:30 p.m. concert band performance.
Need a late night pick-me-up? Tune in at 10:50 p.m. for a pep band performance to close out the evening.
A previous version of this story misstated the cost of transporting students via bus. The information has been corrected.
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