William E. DeWitt
Will DeWitt is director of the Saipan Southern High School Manta Ray Concert Band in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. He is also founder, conductor, and music director of the Saipan Pacific Winds Community Concert Band.
In 2008 his award winning high school band and the SPWCCB were participants in activities associated with the 2008 XXIX Summer Olympic games in Beijing, China. They performed with other band musicians at the Olympic Stadium, the Great Wall of China, and in Tiananmen Square, the first foreign ensembles to play in that historic square.
The band was invited to participate as part of that group of 2008 Olympic musicians, following the winning of the prestigious Gold Award at the June 2008 Tumon Bay Music Festival in Guam. They were chosen as being among the best musicians from the Oceania "green zone," one of four zones in that geographic region.
Dewitt started teaching in 1992. Since he accepted the position at SSHS in 2002, he has twice been nominated to Who's Who Among America's Teachers, in 2004-2005 and in 2005-2006. In 2006 he was selected as the Saipan Southern High School Teacher of the Year, an honor acknowledged in a February 2006 House Resolution by the Northern Marianas Commonwealth House of Representatives.
In 2012 the high school band raised $250,000 to travel to London to participate in festivities associated with the 2012 Olympics hosted in that city. The following remarks were entered into the Congressional Record of the 112th Congress in the Northern Mariana Islands by Representative Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan:
Mr. Speaker, here's a story to make us all cheer: 46 high school musicians from America's smallest insular area raise a quarter of a million dollars to go to London and perform during the Olympics, where they win a silver medal.
This is the story of the Saipan Southern High School Manta Ray Concert Band, who played their hearts out at the London Celebration Music Festival this week in Central Hall in Westminster. We are all cheering in the Northern Mariana Islands because the Manta Rays represent us all.
We're the only U.S. insular area that did not send athletes to London. We sent our student musicians, and they came away with silver. It took bake sales, rummage sales, garage sales, a bowling tournament, tree plantings, car washes, a radio telethon, lunches, and raffles. It took business, government, civic organizations, and individual donors all chipping in because these kids dared us to dream.
Ten years ago, there was no high school band in our islands. Most families could not afford to buy an instrument. Today, through the faith, effort, and determination of the students, we're all inspired, confirming the belief that there is no better investment than in our children.
Congratulations, Manta Rays.
DeWitt, who completed theology and music degrees at Pacific Union College in 1992 and 1993, and his wife, Lois, have three children.
Sources: Winter 2009 ViewPoint, Journal of Pacific Union College, 23,24; Northern Marianas Commonwealth Legislature, House of Representatives Resolution No. 15-8, 3 February 2006; "Manta Band gets help from Guam to play in Beijing Olympics," Variety News, 5 August 2008; Transcript from the House of Representatives, Northern Mariana Islands, 31 July 2012.