CARY – Inside the band room at Cary Junior High, Band Director Alex Carlson conducts a group of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in a theme song medley which includes the Flintstones, Jetsons, Simpsons, Pink Panther and Animaniacs.
The symphonic band has about 45 students playing flutes, trombones, clarinets, trumpets and drums among other instruments after the school day.
However, it’s the Cary Band Association that pays Carlson to give lessons to the students at the junior high and conduct the bands. Now the association is asking District 26 to start picking up the tab again.
After a three-year hiatus of music and art programs in District 26, this school year the district was able to reinstate those programs.
However, the fifth- through eighth-grade band program was something District 26 did not include in its budget.
“Now that the district has begun to reinstate art, music and physical education back into the school system, it is time for the band program to return as well,” said Scott Sampson, president of the band association.
“While we understand all programs need to be evaluated based upon student impact versus cost, we feel the additional cost of the band program would be minimal in the overall district budget,” Sampson added.
After the program was axed beginning the 2010-11 school year, along with other special classes, the Cary Band Association stepped in to provide weekly instrument lessons during the school day and practice as ensembles. The association pays for one full-time employee and one part-time employee, who works with fifth-graders in the district.
To participate, fifth-graders are charged $300 and junior high students are charged $325. Some families cannot afford those fees, Sampson said.
Students on free or reduced lunch pay half-price fees, Carlson added. The fees pay for the two directors and room rental, among other things.
There are currently about 165 fifth- through eighth-graders in the program, which is about 25 fewer than last year, Carlson said.
Being in a band allows students to learn more than the basics of a music class such as more music notation and terminology. Band students also perform at assemblies, school graduations and in parades, Carlson said.
Whether the district brings the band back has yet to be determined, said Superintendent Brian Coleman.
The district was able to bring back art and music districtwide, and physical education for kindergarten through fifth-graders. At the junior high, physical education was expanded to sixth-graders, as seventh- and eighth-graders already had physical education.
Coleman said during a recent school board meeting that bringing back art and music was part of a two-year phase in.
“When we approach that as an administration, we look at how we can make the biggest impact on the greatest amount of kids,” Coleman said. “That’s how we prioritize our programs.”
The district is in the process of putting together its staffing plan for next school year, and plans to present it at a finance committee meeting on Feb. 18. Coleman said band is being considered for next school year.
“I can’t promise anything at this point, because we’re looking at it right now,” Coleman said.
“All of us here want to see the band program come back,” Coleman added.