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Paynesville Press - March 20, 2002

Marching band's fate is uncertain

By Michael Jacobson

Whether or not Paynesville Area High School's award-winning marching band hits the streets this summer was brought to the school board meeting last week.

Director Nathan Long, who replaced Bryan Mara this year as the high school band director and marching band director, informed the board that low numbers threaten the ability to field a marching band this summer.

School funding ($9,500) was cut for the marching band during the recent round of budget cuts for the 2002-03 school year. Money exists to fund the program this year, but the carryover effect of the pending cut seems to have dampened some enthusiasm for marching.

Long told the school board on Tuesday, March 12, that high school students were reluctant to march because the band has been cut, starting in 2003, and because this year's group will be less experienced than previous ones.

"They're feeling abandoned," said board member Gretchen O'Fallon, who has had a son and a daughter march with the band.

Long held a meeting with parents and band members on Monday, March 11, and had commitments from 53 students to march at that time, but by Tuesday that number had dropped to 41. Of those commitments, nearly two-thirds were eighth graders, while barely a dozen high school students were willing to commit to playing in the marching band this summer.

Having only 53 band members would already provide minimal instrumentation, Long told the board. "You could do it with 41," he said. "I could put together a band that will march down the street, but with 41 you can't do much more than that."

"I hate to see it come to this," said board member Deb Glenz, "but you can't make something happen if the kids don't want to do it."

Without a competitive marching band, which practices for a week before engaging in a month of competitions in area parades, the program would revert to where it was a decade ago, said principal John Janotta, when all that was done was marching for the Town and Country Days parade.

Board chairman Pat Flanders lobbied the board to wait to act on the marching band's fate for this summer to see if students or parents or anyone could generate enough interest to continue the strong, if young, tradition of the ensemble.

"We need someone to take the bull by the horns," he said.

"Another example of 'fat' in our budget," he added sarcastically, referring to the necessity of cutting programs like marching band from the school budget.

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