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Paynesville Press - April 3, 2002

Marching band cancelled due to low numbers

By Michael Jacobson

Marching band Paynesville Area High School's award-winning marching band will not be hitting the streets this summer. Due to low numbers, the school program has been eliminated.

The move was recommended by high school band director Nathan Long and approved by the school board on Tuesday, March 26.

School funding for the program was eliminated for 2002-03 by the recent round of budget reductions. Money was available to run the program this summer, but student interest was not, at least in part because of the elimination of the program in the next year.

Long, who first brought the problem of low student interest to the school board at their previous meeting in March, told the board last week that only 40 students had signed up for the band: 22 high schoolers and 18 eighth graders.

Of those 40 students, five were in the color guard and seven in the drum line, leaving only 28 wind instruments.

Such a band would not be competitive due to a small sound, Long told the board. "You can do it with 40 (students), but it's probably not something that you would want to represent Paynesville," said Long.

Furthermore, some of the high school students that had signed up indicated a lack of interest in participating if the band would be so small and so uncompetitive. Long said that students are telling him, "If we're not going to win, I'd rather work. If it's something just to be in, I'd rather find something else to do."

He estimated that the number in the marching band, if additional high school students decided not to participate, could drop by another 10. "The interest isn't there in the upper classmen," said Long, "which is the leadership of this group."

Long, after looking at the numbers and discussing the situation with colleagues, recommended not to have marching band this summer. "I'm disappointed," he said. "The kids are disappointed."

The board voted 6-1 to discontinue marching band, with board member Tami Stanger voting against. All programs go through down cycles and have to rebuild, she noted. "My thinking is if we decide not to have it this year, we're done," she said, later asking, "Are we going to cut basketball if it has 12 (players)?"

She preferred leaving other options open, leaving it up to the discretion of Long and the music department.

But the extreme deadline for signing up for parades this summer had already been reached, and the decision was already coming from the music department, noted members of the majority.

Board member Deb Glenz said that putting the decision in the hands of the music department would be "passing the buck."

"All we're doing is saying, 'We agree,' " added board chairman Pat Flanders.

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