Sunday, February 8, 2004

Group can't play, sings for Ashcroft

Electric Jazz Orchestra
The Electric Jazz Orchestra couldn't take their instruments into the Justice Department for a performance, so they sang instead.
(Photo provided)
A local jazz band assigned to play for U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft was able to sing its way into the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., after being rebuffed for security reasons.

The performance was part of a Hands on Learning program at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy from Jan. 3-16.

Dan Grantham, conductor of the Electric Jazz Orchestra at the school, said the show for Ashcroft was one of 16 performances by the group that also included auditions at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

"The day before Christmas, we received a call from the Attorney General's office that we could not perform," Grantham said.

The message was: "What were we thinking? We can't have a bunch of kids coming in here with instruments. It will be a security nightmare. You can't come.''

Grantham, known for his persistence as a teacher, reminded the caller that they were "an orchestra and sort of a choir. Well, not really a choir, but several kids can sing pretty good.

"I convinced them to let us come. We practiced on the bus, in hotel lobbies and rooms. We didn't want to miss the opportunity to perform before a political figure. I told the band members - you use your instruments every day. Think of using your voices," Grantham said.

He said the experience was interesting and educational.

"We sang 'God Bless America.' "

Help with heating

Herbert Walker is racing against the clock to keep the elderly and people with respiratory problems warm for the rest of the winter season.

He is manager of the emergency services heat and housing program for the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency and urges individuals and families struggling with heating bills to contact him.

The heating program started Nov. 1 and runs through March 31.

"Since November, we have helped 6,000 families with their utilities and put 9,000 on the Percentage of Income Payment plan for their utilities," Walker said. "We want people to get used to calling our new number, which is 569-1850."

Qualifications for the program are based on the federal guidelines for poverty. A single person can earn up to $13,470 a year and qualify, while a family of four can make up to $28,000.

"We will pay up to $175 on utility bills," Walker said. "In outlying areas where people use coal and fuel, we pay up to $250. We have paid for some repairs on furnaces. We will make home visits to take applications."

The Community Action Agency is in its 37th year of providing services in Hamilton County and operating Head Start through 60 preschool programs.

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