Letter to the Editor: “Let's give our band a fair shot”

Dear Editor,

I had the pleasure of working with the trumpet section of the Eagle Band after Mr. Short graciously asked me to help before Marching Contest. He told me the rehearsal would be from 8:30 to 10 p.m., which I thought was a little late, but since Marching Contest was in three days, I totally understood.

 

As the band went through their routine, I had a flashback to my days as a band director, at the same practice field, and then it hit me…nothing has changed!   
With three days before marching contest, the kids are still practicing, in the dark, on an asphalt field with cracks that make it difficult to march without fear of twisting an ankle. I took mental notes during the band’s run-through and decided that the first thing we would work on would be tuning, a task that was easier said than done.  

Five of the six trumpets did not have moveable tuning slides, the valves stuck repeatedly… some were even held together with duct tape and were hard to play at best.  
Mr. Short did proudly show me his instrument repair room, apparently the answer to instruments that the Salvation Army wouldn’t touch…and yet, I saw the eagerness, the spirit, the hope, in the kids’ faces and thought….nothing has changed.

I went home and continued to stew about the inequities in our extracurricular programs. The band and academic programs have been the step children of extracurricular activities for as long as I can remember.  Our buses always seemed to be the ones that broke down on out-of-town trips.  I remember joking that we had to travel with our own mechanic to make it back home from football games.  Duct tape, rubber bands, safety pins, and prayers were an essential part of our travel kits, keeping instruments and uniforms together until the next trip.  Countless enchilada suppers, hundreds of cases of “World’s Finest Chocolate,” brown bag lunches…nothing has changed.

How can we expect these band kids to perform and compete if they are not given the facilities, the equipment, the extra help, the support and the encouragement that they need to succeed?  

In Texas, Friday night football is at the top of the food chain, with band and academics getting the week-old leftovers.  This disparity is not lost on the band members, who get to march on a state-of-the-art field at home games, only to return to the reality of their dismal practice facilities the rest of the week.

I often listen to my former students reminiscing fondly about their days as band members, and many of them have their own kids in band, who desperately need their efforts to be validated with more than just words of encouragement… they need equitable facilities and equipment to give them a chance to succeed.  

Don’t we owe them that much? 

Sincerely,

Gilda Morales