Band means a lot to me.
I have been in band since I was in sixth grade. I’m now a senior at Poca High School, and have developed a love for musical instruments.
When I was in sixth grade, I started out on trumpet and moved to French horn. Then, in seventh grade, I was introduced to the excitement of marching band.
I went to football games and competitions, performing just like any other high school band would and basically practiced like I was already in one. My love for band got even richer when I felt the joy of being accepted into the middle school all-county band and then the all-area band. From that moment onward, it felt less like something I just did for fun and more like a thing that I needed to literally fulfill my dreams.
I struggled in elementary school to find my place and to make friends. Joining the band in middle school became my outlet. It was a place I felt comfortable, relaxed and truly felt I belonged. You could say it really felt like a family.
Some others I have talked with also use the program as their escape from reality. When talking with my friend, Tabitha Snyder, she explained the importance of the group in her life and how “all the people in the band really become your second family.”
“We come together and work hard to earn our winnings,” said senior Crysannia Holmes. “Band has helped me get through so many rough patches. We work hard but have fun at the same time. It’s our escape from the real world.”
When I asked my friend Tony DeCrease what band meant to him, he also said it was like his family.
“I am a senior at this school and have gained life-long friends because of band,” DeCrease said. “All of those hours working to perform a show brings this group so close. I know no matter what show we do, I will always have friends with me.”
For me, it’s no coincidence that every one of them mentioned it being a family. Each year we spend no less than 80 hours perfecting our show and learning the music prior to school beginning. Then after school starts not only do we practice every day during class, we have two-hour practices Tuesday through Thursday, football games on Friday, and competitions on Saturday. That leaves only Sunday for rest. This doesn’t even take into account the hours spent practicing on our own at home if there is something we are struggling with.
Our school is not necessarily in an impoverished area, however, funds are limited to help with our music programs. Though we could do crazy amounts of small fundraisers, there are limitations to what we can do and how frequently. Also, we really try not to exhaust those who do participate in helping us.
Many do not realize how much money is needed each year for our program to thrive. Each year it takes approximately $30,000 to purchase music, pay for away band camp, repair school-owned instruments, build props, pay for transportation to competitions and football games, buy costumes and flags, book hotels for overnight stays, pay entry fees for competitions and all-state, buy start-up concession items and to pay dry cleaning fees for the uniforms. There are also numerous other miscellaneous expenses along the way.
Over the years, the band boosters have used many methods of fundraising. These include: bake sales, car washes, Rada Cutlery, Avon, restaurant fundraisers, applied for grants, cookie dough, Christmas fruit, Thirty-One bags, coupon books, magazine subscriptions and rummage sales. These do bring in money, but barely scratch the surface. Our big money comes from the small concession stand we have on the away side of the football field and from the band competition we host on the last Saturday of September on Poca Heritage Day.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to carry over each year and we have been unable to put back enough to save for the new uniforms and instruments that are so desperately needed. Each school year, between opening concessions, band camp, music purchasing, prop building and cleaning uniforms, the previous year’s funds are exhausted. Any instrument repairs or replacements that need to be made have to wait until the funds are available.
This year we start the season with uniforms that are 14 years old and in terrible need of being replaced. Our hats that go with our uniforms are plastic, and many of them are so broken they cannot be used, and they cannot be replaced due to the fact that they are no longer made. We would have to replace them all for them to match.
The drum major uniform I will be wearing this year is 7 years old. Though my mom has made many repairs to it — and will be able to make it look presentable — it still needs way more work than what she is capable of. It is about two sizes too big and was missing many sequins and buttons.
Our amazing teacher, Bob Carroll, is great at making the best of our situation, but there are times even he is frustrated by not being able to help with the condition of some of our super expensive instruments that need replaced due to being so old and in such poor condition. Some are over 50 years old and have been repaired so many times they’re beyond help.
Our drum line has it hard when trying to find new drums and drumheads, as drumheads alone are $20 to $50. New drums are several hundred dollars each and we really need to replace most of them as several of them are being held together with duct tape. The harnesses are also in need to being replaced.
Many of our more expensive instruments that are used for marching and concert season are in great need of repair. The French horn I play has been sent several times for repair but there are limits to what can be fixed. It too requires tape in a couple places that cannot be fixed. My family cannot afford to purchase a French horn for me so I am forced to rely on the school’s. I’m hoping to make all-state band. I tried out last year and missed it by one spot. Making all-state is not an option for me. I have to make it so I can get a good scholarship for college so I can attend Marshall University next year. I am heavily relying on this instrument to get me through.
Thankfully, this year the band boosters have decided to open a separate bank account that will be designated strictly for uniforms and major instrument replacement. People will now be able to donate to the band and designate where they would like for that money to specifically be used. The hope moving forward is that a couple fundraisers could be designated each year to go directly to the new account so that new uniforms every 8 to 10 years wont be quite a stretch.
They’ve also created a GoFundMe campaign specifically to raise $10,000 for new uniforms.
I know that our efforts this year probably will not result in us having new uniforms for this year’s marching season, however, that’s not what all of this is about. We are trying to make things better for the future of this amazing program.
I plan to be a band director when I grow up and I know how important music education is. I have a younger sister and brother who I hope will have a better opportunity than I have to excel. These positive steps will not only help us to have better equipment and uniforms; my hope is that it will give all of us in this musical second family a sense of pride in our hard work.