Donations piling up for Washington band trip |

Donations piling up for Washington band trip

by Sheila Gardner

You can’t swing a trombone in this town without connecting with a Douglas High School band member or business collecting funds to send the Fighting Tigers to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Bush.

Since music director Bill Zabelsky announced earlier this month the band had been invited, the community has stepped up efforts to raise $100,000 to send 101 performers and their chaperones across country.

Having performed for George H. Bush in 1989 and now twice for his son, George W. Bush, Zabelsky jokingly referred to the Fighting Tigers as “the official George Bush band,” a comment that prompted a complaint to Superintendent John Soderman.

“I didn’t mean to offend anybody. It doesn’t matter to me who is in office – Ralph Nader, John Kerry or George Bush – we’re very proud to be playing for the president,” Zabelsky said.

As of noon Thursday, Zabelsky estimated $15,000 had been donated or pledged.

Quartets and octets of band members performed this week in front of Raley’s and Scolari’s grocery stores and donations have been pouring in from handfuls of change to substantial checks.

“Some lady wrote a check for $250,” said parent Linda Gilkerson who is helping raise funds. “The kids have their marching hats out and they’re playing for shoppers.”

Gilkerson, whose two sons Matt, 15, and Jon, 14, are in band, and her husband Billy hope to accompany the students on the trip.

“A lot of Matt’s friends have never traveled or been out of Nevada or California. I didn’t realize how sheltered some of them are,” she said. “Just the experience of being able to go is such a positive thing.”

GE Energy in Minden kicked things off with a $10,000 donation.

Community members are invited to “adopt-a-band-member” for $25 for an individual musician to $1,000 for the entire band.

Tenor sax player Katherine Tooker, 17, said she’s been adopted a few times.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity getting to go to Washington, especially for the presidential inauguration,” Tooker said.

She’s been in band since sixth grade.

“I love to play music,” she said. “We’ve become family. It’s always great to win after we worked very hard.”

Each student is asked to come up with $500 for the trip. Zabelsky said expenses have risen dramatically since the band’s last inaugural trip in 2001.

But he’s confident the community will help make the dream come true.

“I think we’re going to make it,” he said. “I’m not getting any sleep at night and, needless to say, I am still pretty excited.”

Gilkerson said she hopes her sons learn at least one lesson from the experience.

“I want them to learn what a great community we live in,” she said. “How people come together and will support the kids. You read so much about bad things, but this is so positive. We have such a tight-knit community. People put aside all their differences and work together.”

Band members who are members of St. Gall Catholic Church will be collecting donations after Masses on Jan. 1-2.

A benefit band concert and silent auction at is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at Douglas High School.

Mike Jenkins of Jenkins Communications said he is donating $50 for every Nextel activation and $100 for each DISH Network installation to benefit the Douglas and McQueen bands. The Reno high school band has been invited to march in the parade while the Douglas band will entertain parade-goers on the sidewalk.

Jenkins’ brother-in-law’s son is Douglas High School student body president James Stockton. Jenkins is a 20-year-resident of Carson Valley and has two children who will attend Douglas High School.

“I’ve got a vested interest in the kids,” he said.

Zabelsky said plane tickets are on hold and the band hopes to fly to Washington, D.C., from Sacramento on Jan. 16, returning on Jan. 23.

— Sheila Gardner can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 214.


— Anyone wishing to donate for the band’s trip to the Inauguration may end donations to Douglas High School, PO Box 1888, Minden, NV, 89423 or contact band director Bill Zabelsky, 782-5136, ext. 1102.

— Band members are set to perform outside Wal-Mart in north Douglas County beginning at 10 a.m. Dec. 26.

— Donations will be accepted after all the Masses Jan. 1-2 at St. Gall Catholic Church, 1343 Centerville Lane, Gardnerville.

— A benefit concert and silent auction is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at Douglas High School, Minden.

— Jenkins Communications owner Mike Jenkins is donating $50 from every Nextel activation and $100 from each DISH Network installation to the band. He can be reached at 783-3491.