"CFB" in the News

Check out the Boston Globe write up on the College Fund Band.
In 2007, the Boston Globe wrote an article about the CFB and how they came to be. Read the full article by Robin Nixon below.

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Busking out in song - for college fund

The College Fund Band from Gloucester - Debbie Gantt, and her sons, 12-year-old Jack (standing), and 9-year-old Dan - perform in Harvard Square on a recent Saturday evening.
The College Fund Band from Gloucester - Debbie Gantt, and her sons, 12-year-old Jack (standing), and 9-year-old Dan - perform in Harvard Square on a recent Saturday evening. (JUSTINE HUNT/GLOBE STAFF)

It is a familiar scene. A father watches with pride and frets as his two boys, 9 and 12, begin a song for the audience. His wife is with their sons, supporting them on piano. He smiles, recognizing Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine."

This is no school performance. Jack and Dan Gantt of Gloucester are busking on the streets of Harvard Square, and their T-shirts identify their ensemble as well as its purpose - the College Fund Band.

The Gantts won't say how much money they've raised since they became street performers last summer, except that it's only a small fraction of what they should be saving. But every bit helps.

"You don't want your kids to start their adult lives with thousands and thousands of dollars in loans," said Debbie Gantt, 42, the boys' mother as well as the band's pianist and backup singer.

It was Jack Gantt, the elder son, who first suggested street performing. The boys' father, Charles Gantt, 44, works in Boston's Financial District. While visiting his father for lunch about two years ago, Jack Gantt became captivated by the outdoor performers in Quincy Market.

Both boys take music lessons several times a week and perform in several bands at the Brookwood School in Manchester-by-the-Sea, where their mother is a performing arts teacher. But busking on his home turf was less appealing, Jack said. "I wanted do it in front of some new people, people I didn't know."

Debbie Gantt, who had performed with her mother and brothers as a child, thought Jack's idea would make a nice family activity - only she "didn't want to take people's money for nothing." Using the funds for college came up as a joke at the dinner table. The idea stuck.

They run the band like a business, she said. After every performance, they deduct the price of gasoline, parking, and any equipment repairs from the plastic Halloween pumpkin they use to collect contributions. They immediately deposit the rest into the college savings account.

This summer, the Gantts have played once or twice a week, and hope to continue through October. Their usual spot is at Church Street and Massachusetts Avenue, though on a recent Saturday afternoon a crooner claimed the space first, so they set up in front of the Holyoke Center on Harvard Street instead.

Like "Sweet Child o' Mine," most of the band's songs "usually have some little lyrical message, something that is funny to us," said Charles Gantt. The band starts its set with a song written by Jack. The lyrics include a line that they "just hope that we get paid." They also cover the Beatles' song, "Help."

"They're like the Partridge family," said Debbie DeVincent, 47, referring to a television program in the early 1970s. DeVincent said her three children earned college money by delivering newspapers.

Another visitor to Harvard Square empathized with the band's cause.

"It is unbelievable how expensive [college] is. Every year it goes up," said Lynn Yule, 43, while pausing to listen to the Gantts.

Yule's husband, Bruce, 43, quipped that when college time comes around for their sons, "worst-case scenario, we'll move back to Canada." The Yules have three boys, the oldest 13.

According to the College Board's most recent report, college prices are rising faster than the prices of other goods and services. After adjusting for inflation, the cost of public, four-year colleges increased 35 percent over the last six academic years. Private four-year colleges became more expensive as well, increasing 5.9 percent during the same period.

New England is home to the highest-priced colleges in the United States, with private college tuitions averaging $28,386 a year, according to the College Board.

Parents of a newborn should start putting away $602 a month for college, according to a calculator on the website, SavingForCollege.com. If they wait until the child begins high school, the amount skyrockets to $1,609 a month.

During the College Fund Band's performance, the money rolled in a few dollars at a time. Kids danced and ran up to the pumpkin with dollar bills in their fists. Adults strolling through the square stopped to chuckle at the band's name.

Dan Gantt wants to go to Boston College, he said, and then start "trading money." He can accurately explain interest rates and even makes out promissory notes, complete with calculated interest, when making small loans to his family members.

Jack Gantt is interested in film editing and would also like to "create" businesses. He has not decided on a university, but said, "After all this College Fund Band, I am definitely going to college."

Their mother listed the many benefits of the band - family time, musical growth, responsibility, flexibility, business experience. "That's why I feel like it is a win, win, win, win, win!" she said, making checkmarks with her finger.

She followed up in an e-mail to say, "We have talked in the past as a band and in case we reach our financial goals early (yeah, right!), we are going to continue as a 'college fund band' and raise money for someone else who needs it to go to college."

The Gantts practice in their home, where the den recently was renovated to provide more rehearsal space. Instruments litter the floor below the room's large windows, which look out over a lush lawn.

"After a long day, I can just come in and pick up a drumstick," Jack Gantt said.

Jack recounted the College Fund Band's "most touching" experience so far. A man they presumed was homeless took a dented Altoids can from his pocket. He took out some change, "all that he had," and contributed it to their fund. "That would be like us emptying our whole bank account into the pumpkin," Debbie Gantt said.

"Sweet Child o' Mine" ended. Charles Gantt had predicted the song would be the showstopper. And sure enough, by his calculations, "more people put money in during this song than any other."

One dissenter in the crowd was Judy Glick, 48, a mother of two who wondered if the Gantts would feel as "entitled" to perform in Harvard Square if they were Latino, African-American, or simply not upper-middle class.

Robin Nixon can be contacted at robinnixon@hotmail.com.

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