When Chancellor High School’s marching band takes the field during football games or competitions, the students do more than provide an entertaining halftime show.
Their program spotlights hunger in America—that one in five children are without food at some point during the year—and how people in the audience can help.
“I think it will make a difference, not only in America, but the world,” said Katie Presutto, drum major for Chancellor’s Lightning Regiment Marching Band in Spotsylvania County. “Starvation is a main issue that must be fixed.”
While Chancellor has performed the show and held a food drive at each home game, every marching band student in Stafford County is uniting Monday for a similar cause.
The seventh annual “Band Together to Fight Hunger” will be held at 7 p.m. at Mountain View High School. Musicians from Brooke Point, Colonial Forge, Mountain View, North Stafford and Stafford High will perform their own selections, then all 500 students will take the field to perform together.
There’s no admission fee, but organizers will be collecting food and money. The goal is to raise enough of both to provide 30,000 meals locally, said Karen Bingham, a band parent and school administrator who coordinates the event.
Efforts by the band students in Spotsylvania and Stafford counties “teach our kids the importance of supporting our community” and help them realize the world is bigger than they are, she said.
“They have the power, even though they’re young, to put out a very powerful message,” Bingham said.
While band halftime shows typically have a theme, they’re more likely to be based on a Broadway show or movie series, such as “The Hunger Games,” rather than the reality of how many people need help putting food on the table.
In the local area, the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank provides assistance to more than 34,000 people through its network of partners and pantries.
Each member of the Chancellor band joined the food bank’s cause last summer by volunteering at a program offered at the Salem Church Library.
The band performed music at the kickoff event, then high school students interacted with the youngsters who came to the library three times a week for lunch.
“I was really shocked about how many kids in our area are not getting food,” said Michael Johnson, president of the Chancellor band. “I was like, struck. I didn’t expect that here.”
Band director Ryan Addair had a similar reaction when he started putting together the halftime show called “The Simple Gifts We Give.” He combined musical selections and choreography that seem to inspire audiences—and bring them to tears.
Students within the band represent the haves and have-nots, and those without food are literally reaching out to others around them. As the show proceeds, a large collection of boxes, painted with images of canned goods, wheat and apples, is spread along the length of the field, representing food becoming accessible to all.
Meanwhile, musicians play a section from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” As audience members probably are reciting the lyrics of, “Why, oh, why can’t I?” to themselves, the voices of children come across the loud speaker, emphasizing what they can do to help those who are hungry.
“I can donate money.”
“I can volunteer at my local food bank.”
“I could have a canned food drive.”
Addair started working on the program last spring and was a little nervous when he presented the program to the band in June because it wasn’t the typical halftime show.
He needn’t have worried.
“They were super excited about it,” he said.
He hoped audiences would be moved, but didn’t expect to hear parents and audience members say they cried during the show.
At a recent state assessment competition, the judge presented the Chancellor band with a superior rating—the highest possible—and said the performance brought tears to his eyes.
“This show is definitely a more emotional show than what we’ve done in previous years,” said Chris Jones, a senior and trumpet soloist.