How the arts funding crisis has affected marching bands

In a tough economy, nobody has remained unscathed, and music and arts programs are no exception. Whether they're just being stripped of their resources or getting cut entirely, many of these programs have come to rely heavily on fundraising through generous donors and community support to stay afloat.

While music and arts programs have been at risk for cuts with the necessity of tighter education budgets, marching bands have also suffered in their own way. While the shutting down of some programs has left many in fear of their band's future, resource reduction and delays have risen as a major concern. According to Mike Blakeslee, the deputy executive director and chief operating officer of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), this process of taking away program essentials is called "hollowing out." The band program may avoid a cut, he explained to Halftime Magazine, but it might as well not even exist because of a critical lack of necessary resources such as equipment, like marching band uniforms and instruments, and enough time and space for rehearsal. Without these means, many bands will deteriorate on their own as there is not enough there for sufficient musical education, he said.

Delays have also become a greater worry for band programs, with many students not being introduced to marching band and other music education programs until middle school years. This translates to decreased interest and less time for students to fully learn an instrument. Without these critical developmental years, many marching bands dwindle in size and support.

To remedy this gradual disintegration of band programs, many communities have looked to different fundraising opportunities to make sure their children are experiencing all the benefits of music education. Recently, the Cumberland Valley School District in Pennsylvania has implemented a booster program to shore up the funds for their local marching bands. These booster programs consist of volunteers from the school, community or anonymous supporters who help with everything from equipment to travel costs.

"The school district supports the program as much as they can, and the boosters help offset that to make sure we can accomplish everything that we want to and to make sure that I have the equipment that I need that I may not be able to budget for in a regular year," Adam Nobile, local band director, said in an interview with Cumberland Valley's newspaper, The Sentinel.

With funding from schools becoming increasingly difficult to sustain, booster and other such fundraising programs that involve community support have become fundamental to marching band culture, helping ensure that students are able to play their best and get the most of their experience.

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