Payson High School’s band teacher predicts a renaissance.
Although 39 students are now enrolled in band, down from a one-time high of 55, Larry Potvin hopes that several changes will result in increased numbers.
First, the drive to raise money for new band uniforms and instruments could make the music program more attractive to students. Second, all three elementary schools have band programs for the first time in several years. “Feeder programs” for band are vital for a vibrant high school program, district music teachers say.
At the high school level, both uniforms and instruments are outdated, band advocates say.
“A band uniform lasts a minimum of 10 years,” Potvin said. Payson’s uniforms are roughly 14 years old. “They’ve just been worn out,” he said. “The pant legs are tattered, the white is no longer white.”
Band booster Jeri Shepard is trying to heighten awareness for music’s needs. She says the ragged uniforms and sorry state of the instruments drag down the kids’ morale.
“We go to competitions and the kids see what other schools have and they don’t understand,” she said. “It got me going when I went to that championship game,” Shepard added. “Looking at those baritones... it’s just embarrassing.”
Both Shepard and Potvin said that the band’s financial doldrums, which result in old uniforms and instruments, along with little money for band trips, discourages some students from playing in band.
“I’ve had some students quit because the instruments were so bad,” Potvin said.
Equipment is expensive, but Potvin and Shepard hope that they can raise money through Credit for Kids or other fund-raisers.
Potvin wants to buy 60 uniforms, which cost roughly $350 each, and some new instruments, which, even used, can cost $2,000 to $3,000.
Although fewer than 40 students now play in band, Potvin said he will purchase with room for growth.
“With me or someone else, it’s going to grow,” he said.
To increase band’s attractiveness, Potvin wants to take band on a big music trip, and he also plans to give members more ownership by possibly allowing them to vote on who gets chosen to play solos, for instance.
Band is a year-round activity. Besides playing during the football games, students play in marching festivals the day after the game.
“It’s been a great marriage between marching band and the football team,” Potvin said. Next comes concert season, which allows the students to play increasingly difficult music because they can focus more on playing when not marching.
The winter concert serves as band members’ final exam. In January, students compete in the All-Region Music Festival. Winners of that competition proceed to the All-State Music Festival, which Potvin said attracts the best students in the state and gives talented musicians from Payson the chance to stand out.
Also in January, Potvin will start a jazz band to complement the pop and marching bands that already exist.
Music, Potvin said, “defines who we are. It separates us from other creatures on the planet.”
Band offers students camaraderie and teaches them dedication and responsibility, Potvin said. He adds, “The kids are great.”