P.S. 22 Chorus from S.I. raises enough money to sing at the inauguration
A Staten Island school chorus that was invited to sing at President Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan. 21, but didn't have the money to go to Washington, D.C., has raised even more cash than it needs to take the trip.
Gregg Breinberg, the director of the fifth grade chorus at P.S. 22 in Graniteville, S.I., school, said a story in amNewYork about the group's need for money to pay for hotel accommodations and two buses with bathrooms ("which is what you need when you have 65 kids") triggered a cascade of interest and donations.
"Your story helped. A lot of the major news media picked up on it," and more than $25,000 poured in, Breinberg said. "The New York Yankees offered to help us, but by the time they did, we were already set," he added. The surge of generosity, which came during a time of great hardship in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, "made our hearts sing," Breinberg said.
More than 100 donors stepped up, with one couple driving down from Boston to deliver a $1,000 check. A group of fifth graders at P.S. 11 in Woodside even sent $225. "The kindness of children helping children: That's beautiful!" said P.S. 22 Principal Melissa Donath of the effort she described as "not your typical bake sale."
The chorus, unique for the endearing individuality its members are allowed to express, savvy arrangements and harmonies, has received more than 50 million YouTube hits as a result of videos made by P.S. 22 para professional Lisa Kochman. The children performed at the 2011 Oscars and have shared the stage with many celebrities, singing in December with Carrie Underwood at Newark's Prudential Center.
Breinberg was surprised to discover he would have to do some political horse trading to get a set list acceptable to his hosts. The Inaugural Committee "vetoed a lot" of the songs he proposed the children sing, he said. Nixed was "Chasing the Sun" by The Wanted. Approved was "Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood. The Committee did not want to allow the kids to sing "Home" by Phillip Phillips "but I appealed and they relented," he said.
It's all good, though, said Breinberg: "I'm just not stressing this. I'm determined to make this a great experience for these kids."
And after? The adorable kids will stage a concert at the school and invite all the donors who made it possible for them to be part of history, said Donath, "but they have to get back from the inauguration first."