D.28 band director, kids record for wounded vets
Band director Doug Shuler (far right) poses with last year's Northbrook Junior High School Sixth Grade Chorus, which sang on the Blank Check CD. Courtesy\School District 27
The Blank Check CD may be purchased for $12 at Amazon.com, CD Baby, and the Book Bin, 1151 Church St., Northbrook.
Updated: November 8, 2012 2:26PM
More than 60 Northbrook Junior High School students have recorded their voices in song to help wounded military personnel.
The recording was produced by Doug Schuler, a School District 28 band director.
Schuler is donating all profits from the first 5,000 albums to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. So far, he has sold 700.
The album came alive after Schuler fell and shattered his leg in January.
“I was laying there in this nursing home, and after about a week, started feeling sorry for myself,” Schuler said. “I was watching the news and a report came on about a soldier in Iraq who had stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both his legs. It was really an awakening to me — like a punch in the face.”
That’s when the idea for the Blank Check project was born, named to honor military personnel who are said to “write a blank check” when signing up, since their duties could mean their lives. Schuler, a professional trumpet player on weekends for 25 years, started the project by calling the best musicians in the area.
“At first, I was hesitant, because I wasn’t offering a lot of money, and they make a lot of money doing this for a living, but almost every single person I approached was more than happy to participate,” he said.
A bass guitarist who has played with everyone from Eric Clapton to the Beach Boys, he said he had never been involved with the military, but had always wanted to show his gratitude. Roughly 35 other professional musicians, writers and arrangers said they felt the same way.
That included Sara Loeb, School District 28’s communications coordinator, who wrote for the effort, and Keri Stone, another district band director, who created the graphic designs. Greg Scapilatto, another district band director, built a website (blankcheckproject.com) and Facebook page for it.
Gina Gonzales, a member of actor Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band for seven years, composed and recorded the lead vocals for “A Letter Home,” a young soldier’s reflections on service.
In fact, many of the musicians featured on the album have performed with notable artists, including B.B. King, Frank Sinatra, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett and Michael Buble. “Thank you can be said in a number of ways. This way was very inspired,” said Mark Schüeler, a 13-year-old seventh-grade choir member,
Erica Uhlig, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, said that if she was in the military and heard the CD, she would think people cared about her. Anna Good, another 12-year-old seventh- grader, added that if she was a soldier, it would make her feel really good.
“The effort was important on multiple levels,” Principal Scott Meek said. “I’m extremely impressed by the song and extremely proud of the students. It’s already had an impact on them.”