The Fayette Citizen-Opinion Page
Wednesday, August 19, 1998
Band parent takes exception to parade column

Letters from Our Readers

As president of the McIntosh High School Band Boosters I would like to respond to your comments regarding the participation of school bands in the Peachtree City Fourth of July Parade.

Marching these days is not the marching of our fondly remembered past, where the band simply marched down the street or field playing John Philip Sousa.

Marching today is a competitive sport, if you will, performed in conjunction with high school football games and in professionally judged competition against other schools, requiring an intricate show with a theme.

For instance, this year our music, theme, and show will be West Side Story. As of the date of this letter the incoming freshmen have spent one week in "rookie camp" gaining the necessary skills for marching. This week the entire band is at Jackson State in "Band Camp," where they will rise each morning at 6 a.m. to march and rehearse until 10 p.m. each night. After this week they will rehearse each weekday until the end of marching season in mid-November.

If you were to visit the McIntosh band room, the abundance of trophies would confirm their success in this endeavor. The competition also requires formal uniforms, usually of wool or serge appropriate to the fall marching season, which cannot be worn in the summer. The band would collapse from heat exhaustion before the end of the July 4 parade route. So why don't we buy summer uniforms?

It may shock you and your readers to learn that Fayette County pays only for the band director, a miniscule budget to pay for classroom materials, and the band room at the school. Everything else required for a marching band music, uniforms, instrument repair and replacement, and staff instructors for specialties such as drums and flag corps must be paid for by the band students and their parents, the "Band Boosters."

In addition we must pay the county for buses to transport the band both to competitions and to away football games which are required attendance.

Our annual budget exceeds $80,000 paid by band fees and fundraising, not by the taxpayers lining the July 4 parade route. Space does not permit me to tell you how hard the booster parents and students work to raise this money, though there are stories enough to fill many an issue of your paper.

The band that played on July 4th was entirely voluntary, made up of both the Starrs Mill band and the Spirit of McIntosh Band. Additionally, the incoming freshman were invited to march despite their lack of marching experience, to allow them to bond early with their band.

It is entirely voluntary because after the end of school on June 15 and the start of rookie camp the first week of August, band families have only 45 days to get a family vacation scheduled. In a town that is oriented toward the family, many families take faraway vacations. It is unrealistic to expect them to forgo their summer vacations for the sake of performing on one day in the summer.

Finally in your column there is the suggestion that these are not the "really good" kids. Every year the majority of the Junior Marshals (the top 20 students ranked by grade point average) at McIntosh High school are band members. The McIntosh Concert, Symphonic and Wind Ensemble bands are consistently ranked top in the state by the Georgia Music Educators Association.

In 1996 the Wind Ensemble traveled to Savannah to play on opening day of the Georgia Music Educators Association concert, an honor only accorded to the "really good" bands in the state.

We invite you to visit our training camps, see our show in competition and talk to us; only then will you understand the fierce pride which we have in our band students.

We are also open to donations both from you and Mr. Bryan as well as the Citizen Review.

Rebecca R. West
President, Spirit of McIntosh Band Boosters

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