Many of them had never been out of the country before.
"United States of America! Woo!" one said.
They were coming to New York City to play benefit concerts for orphans back home in Africa. But, as CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace at the airport, their dream looked to be over. Customs wouldn't allow their instruments - called marimbas - on the plane, saying they had to be sent by freight instead.
The kids got on the plane anyway, knowing that somehow they'd have to find 10 African marimbas within 24 hours of landing in New York City so they could play their first concert.
Even worse, African marimbas are virtually nonexistent on the East Coast.
The band sent out desperate e-mails, even contacting the lone marimba player from the Broadway show The Lion King.
Then, just hours before showtime, an unlikely heroine emerged - 57-year-old teacher, Martha Jenks of Syracuse, N.Y., founder of one of the only marimba bands on the East Coast.
She and a bandmate woke up before dawn to drive nine homemade marimbas to the city.
In the early morning hours, before starting the trip, Jenks wasn't sure if she'd be able to pull it off.
"I wondered how it was all going to work out," Jenks said.
The kids had just two hours to master these instruments that were so different from their own. But when the performance began it looked like they'd been playing them for years.
These concerts will raise money for orphans back home in Botswana, but on this night it was the band's turn to thank a few marimba-loving strangers.
"We really appreciate it," said one of the band members. "I don't know how to express it. We'll thank them somehow."
The music was all the thanks needed.