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Through the light — the Music Endowment for kids

by Officer Walter L. Edwards II

This article was originally published in the July 2008 edition of Drum Corps World (Volume 37, Number 4).

As a law enforcement officer and bodybuilder, I firmly believe that those who do good for others will have good returned to them. Myself, putting a smile on a kids face is my project, no matter the obstacle. I had attempted in the past to join several area youth-based organizations, but as youth members and staff members of these organizations left in droves, and the internal in-fighting and public drinking began amongst the volunteers, I left yet another organization that was based for children, but turned into an organization all about the adults’ egos.

My best times with my father as a kid was every weekend during the summer at drum and bugle corps practice. He was a chaperone. Those were the best times I spent with my dad. Quality time. So through the light, in 2003 The Walter L. Edwards, Sr., Music Endowment Council for Kids was formed. Based in New London County, CT, we promote ourselves as the “drama- and judgment-free drum corps zone!” With a staff of three, we earn monies throughout the year by items that are donated to us and sold through eBay sales and other auction sites, as well as our online clothing sales.

Performers pay dues to the drum and bugle corps they belong to for the experience of a lifetime and some of the final fees can reach several thousand dollars per season.

Through corporate sponsors like Outback Steakhouse, Chili’s, Applebee’s, to name a few, and local sponsors Atlantic Massage, Stash’s Café, Hot Rod Café and Tropic Tan among others, we couldn’t be where we are today without their assistance and the support from the public.

We financially assist young performers who are not in the majority of young kids that CAN pay the fees that are increasing each year. Our council helps defray the cost of the dues that need to be paid to participate and the selected performer receives an grant we call the “Pepe Notaro Award”. Notaro was one of the preeminent drum and bugle corps showmen.

Each year we randomly select drum corps and through the help of their directors and corps leadership staff, we surprise performers with a financial stipend to help them defray the cost of the fee. It’s the perfect random act of kindness and 100 percent of the donations go to the performers. The award can be anywhere from $200 to $1,000. Each corps’ tour fees are different and, depending on the socio-economic background of the performers chosen, we make a determination on the amount of support they will receive.

Sponsored by Sirflexalot.com, a bodybuilding Web site, myself and being an all-natural bodybuilder, it is very important for the Music Endowment Council for Kids to ensure that these young performers can afford to participate so they can get plenty of exercise through the year as they practice during the off-season and tour from June through to early August.

Kids of today are great with their fingers by playing Xbox and Play Station, but as childhood diabetes is on the rise and overweight children are now a major concern in the United States, drum corps is a perfect vehicle for plenty of exercise and parents know where their kids are.

Some of our top exercisers, professional bodybuilders, actors, musicians and comedic family have joined forces when it comes to exercise and drum and bugle corps by modeling the clothing that makes a profit for the kids to able to pay their tour fees. Exercise enthusiasts come in all shapes and sizes.

With everyone’s help and support, this year we were able to give out 52 Pepe Notaro Awards.

Supporters recognize that and have been wearing our t-shirts and garments around the world, allowing the dream to continue for the underprivileged performers we help.

Jaime from Connecticut says, “I, as well as the rest of the corps, immensely appreciate this award. Thank you for rewarding our hard work and helping to ensure our season is a great one. On behalf of the Targets (Springfield, MA), thank you for your notable generosity and the Pepe Notaro Award.”

Homan from the Connecticut Hurricanes says, “I would like to thank the Music Endowment Council for Kids for considering me for their scholarship. This will help me to march in an organization that has helped enrich my musical and marching abilities. It has also afforded me to be among some of the best people I have ever been associated with and have developed friendships that will last for the rest of my life.”

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention some professional and local bodybuilders who assisted in a big way. What better billboard for an organization than a t-shirt on a bodybuilder.

Bodybuilding award-winner Daniel Brunski from Connecticut says, “Anything that gets kids up and moving, I’m all for.   This organization has helped kids see the country like no other has. Keep up the good work.”

An eight-time Mr. Olympia winner and professional bodybuilder says, “Young adults should be proud of the exercise they are getting as well as performing for thousands of people and doing the community proud. Keep on exercising and entertaining!”

Two-time and current Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler says, “They say I have determination. Wow! You should really be proud of yourselves and the clothing line you started to raise money for underprivileged kids to tour the U.S. and Canada while entertaining others. The Sirflexalot.com/Music Endowment Council for Kids! is incredible. What took you so long? Good luck to you performers as you make your way across the country.”

2007 King Kamali Klassic winner Dawn Whitham from Connecticut says, “All my best to the kids this summer. When you called, Walt, I was glad to help. I marched in the Fire-ettes from Norwich, CT, so I know how much of a commitment it is. Get lots of exercise and safe travels on your tour.”

Professional Bodybuilder Anthony Catanzaro says, “My best to all of you young musicians and performers who spend your summer entertaining others while getting plenty of exercise. Anyone can play Xbox or Play Station, but your personal health and fitness is number one, so I commend you.”

Diane from the Blue Stars in La Crosse, WI, says, “I am honored to receive the Walter L. Edwards Sr., Music Endowment Council for Kids Scholarship. I am a student at Tarpon Springs Leadership Academy and a trumpet in the marching band and wind ensembles. This money will help further my education outside of the classroom as I aspire to be a music arranger and educator. Being a member of the Blue Stars allows me to be taught by some of the finest instructors and arrangers in the country. I am proud to say that I am a second-year member. Your generous contribution will allow me to keep chasing my dream. Thank you for the Pepe Notaro Award.”

Band Leader Kevin Eubanks from “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” says, “Music is my life and I am glad to see that you have made it part of your life for the summer, entertaining and working those muscles in ways that people can only imagine. Remember, music warms the heart and the soul.”

Eugenio, a contra section leader from the Crossmen in San Antonio, TX, says, “I would like to thank Walter L. Edwards Sr. and The Music Endowment Council for Kids for not only assisting me with this scholarship, but for giving many other young performers like myself the opportunity to march in various corps across the U.S. Thank you for the Pepe Notaro Award.”

One of our newest kids on the block, Baron, bass drummer with Frontier in Dallas, TX, says, “I would like to thank the Walter L. Edwards Sr. Music Endowment Council for Kids for sponsoring us and giving me the opportunity to be recognized for my hard work and dedication. Thank you for the award. Frontier has made a great impact on my life and I hope that these experiences will allow me to have an impact on others.”

Jose, percussion section leader ’06-’08 from the Spirit of Newark in Newark, NJ, says, “I am honored to receive the scholarship. I am working my way through Essex County Community College and this money is a big help toward my tour fee at Spirit of Newark. This is my eighth season with the corps. Thanks once again for this opportunity and the Pepe Notaro Award.”

Kyle, the 2008 drum major for the Troopers from Casper, WY, says, “I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the coordinators of this scholarship. This fund has helped several members in the drum and bugle corps activity get to march every year and I am honored to be considered. This is my fifth year in drum corps, the fourth with the Troopers, and I will be aging out this summer, so it is truly a blessing to receive support for my age-out season.”
Rick from the Bluecoats in Canton, OH says, “Thank you so much for the Pepe Notaro Award.

“This really helps me out more than you know. As I have filled my life with music, I always remember this quote — ’The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller. Thank you, Music Endowment Council for Kids, for the Pepe Notaro Award.”

Stephon, a 2008 color guard member with the Madison Scouts, received the award and said, “Not many young men are given the opportunity to endure the challenges, rewards and excitement that the Madison Scouts have given me. The passion and sense of family is like no other. The warmth, growth, professionalism, realism and honor gained from just one summer is more than most people can get in a lifetime. The Madison Scouts mean so much to me. Thank you for the Pepe Notaro Award and for providing me with the opportunity to fulfill my dreams.”

James, the 2007 and 2008 soprano section leader from the Velvet Knights in Pasadena, CA, says, “I wanted to say thanks to the Walter Edwards Sr. Music Endowment for Kids for choosing me and donating toward my tour fee. Ever since I joined the Velvet Knights, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself and it has changed my life. Thank you to organizations like yours that all this can be possible.”

As the director of the Walter L. Edwards Sr., Music Endowment Council for Kids, I appreciate all the support we have received from around the world and the fact that you have embraced us in a way that words cannot express. You can learn more about The Music Endowment Council for Kids at www.Sirflexalot.com and   click on the award link or e-mail us at mecforkids@snet.net.

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Drum Corps World is published as an on-line electronic magazine by Sights & Sounds, Inc., Madison, WI. It is supported by advertising from manufacturers, service providers, corps, circuits and show sponsors. The publication began in October 1971 at the same time Drum Corps International was formed and has been produced continuously as a tabloid newspaper until April 2011 and on the Internet since May 2011. It is released monthly, as well as six additional e-mail blasts, one in late June, three during July and two in August.

The worldwide staff of writers and photographers provide show reviews during the season and interviews, feature articles, news and human interest stories during the off-season. The photographs that appear in the magazine are provided by 27 staff members who are scattered around the world. The publication covers World and Open Class Drum Corps International corps, Open and Class A Drum Corps Associates corps, alumni, mini-, parade and standstill units, as well as the growing activity in Europe, the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and South Africa.