An image of Hurricane Maria. Image courtesy of NASA.gov

An image of Hurricane Maria. Image courtesy of NASA.gov

Help Mercer Island group get Puerto Rico band to Rose Parade | My Turn

Hurricane jeopardizes Puerto Rican band’s participation in monumental event.

  • Wednesday, February 28, 2018 10:30am
  • Opinion

By Spencer Klein

MIHS Islander

Every year, around 20 marching bands from around the world are selected to march in the annual Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California.

However, a municipal Puerto Rican band’s participation in this monumental event was jeopardized by Hurricane Maria, which hit the island on Sept. 20, 2017.

Banda Escolar de Guayanilla (BEG) has been a staple to the Guayanilla community since its founding in 1975. Although it is an honor to be selected to march in the Rose Parade, for BEG it is no surprise. The organization has marched in four rose parades, including one in 2012 with Mercer Island, and has travelled to Madrid, New York, Japan, El Salvador and Calgary to perform.

Despite BEG’s success, their opportunity to perform was drastically impeded by the strongest storm of 2017.

Though power was restored to 55 percent of Puerto Rican customers, the effects of Hurricane Maria still plague the majority of citizens.

“Their band room is a 1,600-square-foot space and their air conditioner doesn’t work and it’s 90 degrees right now,” said Parker Bixby, director of Mercer Island bands. Problems like a 90-degree rehearsal space will continue to plague BEG unless something is done.

That’s where the recently formed MIHS/BEG team comes in. Headed by five high school students, this team is responsible for organizing and mobilizing the MIHS band and the surrounding Mercer Island community to support BEG in their time of need.

“We are going to Puerto Rico on a fact-finding mission to decide how we can best use our resources to help Guayanilla and foster a long-term partnership between our band programs,” said Paige Robertson, member of the MIHS/BEG team. The other members, Brandon Hill, Jack Price, Kayla Mitchell and Spencer Klein, will travel to Guayanilla over spring break to accomplish the aforementioned mission.

Details of how best to help BEG are currently vague.

“I asked them about their short-term need … and their first answer was money,” Bixby said. Although a more comprehensive plan will be conceived after the assessment trip in April, right now, the name of the game is fundraising. You can donate at https://misbb.wordpress.com/ or you can contact any of the MIHS/BEG team members.

It is easy to say, “the Mercer Island community has a strong commitment to the arts” when our power is on, when our main street isn’t flooded and when we’re not relying on FEMA for meals.

Right now, there is a community that doesn’t have the resources to make the same commitment — and we live in a community that can bring about change. So donate, get involved and get BEG to the Rose Parade.

Mercer Island High School student Spencer Klein is the humor editor for the student-run paper, the MIHS Islander.

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