Greetings, Southwind Family.

It’s an honor to be able to bring you this letter on behalf of the Empower Youth in the Performing Arts Board of Directors.

We recently added four new members to the board: Sonya Berry, Jennifer Heard (‘92,’95,’96), Leora Madden (‘93), and Joel Patterson. Thank you to these individuals who have made the decision to commit their time and resources to Empower Youth in the Performing Arts, and its flagship organization, Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps.

I would also like to thank Jeremy Johnson (‘93, ‘95, ’96) for heading up this effort, and for agreeing to take on board growth as an ongoing effort. If you are aware of any qualified candidates for the board that would be interested, please let Jeremy know at [email protected]. They don’t have to be Southwind alumni. They can be professionals of any type with an interest in performing arts non-profits.

Despite the COVID-19 related closures, we have some OWA news to report this month. Before the shut down, Empower Youth in the Performing Arts was busy providing five piece Mardi Gras groups to parade through the park and Downtown OWA to help promote OWA’s first annual Mardi Gras parade. On the day of the main parade, our valiant band made the circuit four times: twice in the afternoon, and they both led and finished the parade. They were the first and last things the parade attendees saw and heard, and they did a wonderful job.

There were three weekends involved, including the parade day. There were a few substitutions, so there were more than just 5 people involved. Austin Allen (‘14, ‘15, ‘16, ’17, ’18, ‘19), Bethany Driggers, Brett Fabacher, Juan Mata, Destiny Miskel, Jacobe Ramsey, Timothy Taldon. All the musicians were music majors or minors from the University of South Alabama (USA).

The Mardi Gras group got a bonus performance when Vania Kuy (‘94, ‘95, ‘97), a local alumnus who works at WPMI, was able to get us added to their local Mardi Gras parade coverage. They were able to perform two selections before and after the parade, and there was even a brief interview with Ken Austin (‘81) about the history of the organization. We are very grateful to Vania for getting Southwind that kind of valuable screen time.

Empower Youth was also asked to put together an Andrews Sisters tribute group for OWA’s Fourth of July celebration, which unfortunately was cancelled days before the 4th. The selections included Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree. The singers for this group were Kate Sherill, Morgan Seip, and Mary-Bradley Knighten. All of the singers are music majors at USA. Our accompanist was Dr. Laura Moore, USA Music Department Head. Laura and Morgan also helped out with the Halloween and Christmas performances, and we were grateful to have them back.  Hopefully, this performance will be rescheduled in the near future and we will keep you posted!

Southwind is in good financial standing for next year. If we do not have any unexpected expenses between now and the Fall we should start the year with money in the bank. If you are one of our alumni who looks forward to donating meals to Southwind during the Summer, let me strongly encourage you to donate that same amount again. If you normally donate to our general fund, please consider increasing that by a small increment. That will help us generate a small buffer to safeguard against any leaky tires or radiators.

Currently, we don’t know what the next drum corps season will look like. No one does. Not even Dan Acheson. Whatever form it may take, Southwind will be there, and we will need your ongoing generosity to keep it vibrant and growing.

Ken Austin