Vincent Castañeda has been busy. Between mowing lawns, painting houses, hauling garbage and working part time at downtown Modesto's The Tasty Taco, the Beyer High School sophomore has had little downtime.
The reason behind his numerous jobs? Like many local high school band and color guard members, Vincent has been hard at work earning money for his upcoming trip to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
In July, Vincent and 119 other band and color guard members from Modesto area high schools will travel to China to take part in the Beijing Olympic Orchestra.
Joining with students from James Logan High School in Union City as well as students from California State University, Fresno, and schools in the Pacific Northwest, local students will help make up the Red Hub Orchestra representing the Americas. While in Beijing, the 600 members of the Red Hub will perform at various celebrations and sporting events. They also will join members of the Green Hub (representing Australia and the South Pacific) and the Gold Hub (representing China) to perform in various groupings, as well as to perform tutti (in Italian: "all" or "together").
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The Olympic Orchestra will include 2,008 musicians from 40 countries. The opening ceremony for the Games is Aug. 8.
Kellie Courtney, a senior at Johansen High school, said being able to perform tutti is what she is most looking forward to about the trip.
"I am most excited to get to meet all the other musicians there," she said. "We will be performing with a group of about 2,000 students from different countries who all love music just as much as we do."
Modesto High School senior and flutist Faith Gifford agreed with Kellie. "Getting to work with people from other countries and band members from across the nation is just amazing. I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
The two-week excursion will cost students about $4,500 each. Because of the expense, many band and guard members have turned to group and individual fund-raising efforts to reduce their out-of-pocket expense.
One of the most successful group fund-raisers has been the group's Decal Blitzes, in which teams of students sold decals of custom-designed Red Hub Olympic Orchestra logos. Profits were divided evenly among the participants. While the group does not have any future Decal Blitzes scheduled, many band and guard members will continuing selling the decals individually.
In addition to the decal sales, many students have taken part in ongoing T-shirt sales. These T-shirts, which cost $10 each, contain the Hub's logo on the front and its sponsors on the back.
While these group fund-raisers have helped cut down on the expense of the trip, numerous students have undertaken further fund-raising on their own. With the help of friends and family, Enochs High School sophomore Carlee Herring sold nearly 1,200 homemade tamales, netting her more than $1,000 in sales profit and donations.
Kellie Courtney and her brother, Enochs sophomore Matt Courtney, began a recycling program as their individual fund-raiser. Every week, the two collect recyclables from their neighbors and put the money they make toward the cost of the trip.
Even with the group and individual fund-raising so far, many students still need financial support. While $4,500 is indeed a lot of money, "opportunities like this one don't come every day," Kellie Courtney said.
"This is a great way to represent our community and make ourselves known for something positive. With all the budget cuts in the public schools leading to shrinking music programs, students don't have as many opportunities to perform and travel. This will be the only chance for most of us to travel like this and perform in an international orchestra, and at the Olympics, too!"
Michelle Vecchio is a senior at Whitmore Charter High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom program.