South LA jazz band to represent U.S. at Paris Festival

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif (KABC) -- "Fairy tales do happen! You just have to make sure you work for it!"

That's how trombone player Lilly Diaz described an upcoming trip her jazz band is taking to Paris, France.

The high school students from Foshay Learning Center in South Los Angeles were selected to play in a festival in the famous European city.

"It's a big dream come true. I'm still in shock!" said baritone saxophonist Steven Vallejo.

"What's different about our group...we push each other and we push ourselves," Diaz said of the hard work of her fellow band members.

Director Vince Womack has wanted to travel to Paris with the students for years.

"It will allow them to imagine more and to create more and they're going to dream more broadly," Womack said. "I wanted this experience to be much deeper than just a trip!"

Paying to get to Paris has not been easy. Womack's band had raised close to $40,000 before he contacted ABC7 in February. He needed help getting the final $12,000.

After our story aired in February, so many viewers donated that the band more than met their goal.

"We're greatly touched by large donations, but so many people gave $5, gave $10," Womack said.

To send off the band in style, the Consulate General of France Los Angeles invited them to perform at his Beverly Hills home. He served French food and named the kids cultural ambassadors.

"They are going to be a new link in the chain of friendship between our two countries," Consulate General Axel Cruau said. "I hope they'll be ambassadors to the relationship between our two countries in the years to come."

The kids leave for Paris on March 27. They will perform at least three different times and visit sites famous sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum and Versailles.

Vallejo said he is most excited to discover a whole new culture.

"It's amazing to know you have a community behind you. I want to say thank you so much for making this dream for us, all of us, come true," he said.

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