This seems to be the beginning of one the many depressing poems you’d read in English class, but it is more than words on a page in the Costa Mesa High School band room. It’s reality.
This year, the $350 fee that every marching band student was required to pay in past years became a “donation,” and the greatly impacted the instrumental music program here at CMHS.
“Public schools try to be everything to everyone - giving access to all - opportunities for all. The reality is that programs cost more than the school and district can provide. We used to be able to ask for a fee for those participating. This was extremely helpful! Some schools (not ours) however, abused the fee and even had a "no pay - no play" policy. We never had that at Mesa. We understood that everyone tried to contribute what they were able to, whether it was money or time. Now we ask all to continue to contribute what they can, but it is strange - because we don't call it a fee, but we have not gotten nearly the same amount of money donations,” CMHS band director Sandy Gilboe commented.
At least 4 instruments and 4 stands break per year, and they cost $75-$125 each to repair. Many others are old and falling apart. Music arranged for an entire ensemble is extremely expensive, and equipment, costumes, and the writing of a marching show costs thousands upon thousands of dollars. Truck rentals are needed to transport heavy equipment to competitions across Southern California; such competitions require entry fees. To help with some of these fees, a substantial amount of recycling occurs. The music library and uniform room are packed with boxes upon boxes of old costumes, used music, and rusty equipment, all of which are reused year after year after year.
The band has also cancelled their yearly trip to Knott’s Berry Farm, as well as any overnight competitions, due to financial issues.
“It is very expensive to run an instrumental music program - especially if you want to have instruments for all, and any competitive groups. Since I have been at CMHS (the past 22 years), by and large, the majority of funds go for instruments, uniforms, props, truck rentals and any outside coaches. The money has come from parent donations, grants and fundraising. We literally need to raise around $35,000 a year to keep our program running,” Gilboe said.
Despite the sparse money supply, Mrs. Gilboe “loves the students” and is looking to “try to provide as many opportunities for the students as possible” in the future years.
“A life without the arts is no life at all. In education, it is one of the few remaining areas where we can let students be creative and express themselves. So many valuable things are learned in the band program that aren't even about music as well. I wouldn't teach it if I didn't whole-heartedly believe in its importance!”