PS 22 Chorus has to hustle up money to sing at the inaugural
Have you ever been invited to a party you couldn't afford to attend?
When the PS 22 Chorus was invited in September by Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the joint congressional committee on inaugural ceremonies, to perform at President Barack Obama's inauguration on Martin Luther King Day, everyone was thrilled.
Then the Graniteville, Staten Island school officials found out in a conference call that the 65 kids and their chaperones would be expected to pay their own way.
Since then, the chorus has embarked on a fundraising juggernaut to raise the "tens of thousands of dollars" the group needs for the buses, hotels and meals it will have to purchase to make the January trip. (People who wish to contribute can click "donate" on ps22chorus.blogspot.com)
Chorus director Gregg Breinberg, 39, concedes fundraising is "awkward when there are people who don't have homes right now," many of them in Staten Island. In fact, the group recently participated in an Internet fundraiser with American Idol winner Phillip Phillips to raise money for Hurricane Sandy survivors.
"I'm trying to get the Department of Education to let the kids sell some tunes on iTunes right now," said Breinberg, noting that there should be some way to monetize the "50 million hits we've gotten on YouTube."
The Chorus, which was was dubbed "the best known elementary school chorus on the planet," by New York magazine, has performed on Oprah, with many major recording stars, and just appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It performed at the White House tree-lighting ceremony in 2009, but the producers of the televised event paid all expenses, said Breinberg.
"I don't want to sound ungrateful, but it's an unprecedented brand of invitation," said Greg Breinberg, 39. "When we performed at the Oscars in 2011, everything was taken care of."
It has always been customary for performers to pay their own expenses in connection with the inauguration, and "the chorus was aware of this before accepting the invitation," said a spokes woman in Sen. Schumer's office.
That is true, acknowledged Breinberg, who said he was not oblivious to "the super huge honor," of singing for the president. "It's a lovely invitation. It's just that it comes with a heavy duty workload."