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THS band seeks new ways to secure funding

From concerts to online videos and sponsorship, band will get job done

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: GEOFF PURSINGER - Parker Ediger holds up an unraveling mallet used to play percussion equipment. The Tigard Senior has posted a video online of the bands woeful equipment as part of a contest to fin $10,000.Parker Ediger is frustrated.

The 17-year-old Tigard High School senior has spent years studying music in the band department. As a percussionist and horn player, he has performed in countless concerts and competitions, helped the school bring home several awards, and plans to become a music teacher after college.

But there's just one problem: The instruments he is being taught on aren't just old, they're practically garbage.

“Weekly, we will have to take half a class period just to fix things,” said Ediger. “That’s 45 minutes of dead time just taping or labeling equipment or getting ready for a show. It definitely impacts what we are able to learn.”

Last month, Ediger posted a video online of his band’s shoddy musical equipment as part of a contest run by The Avedis Zildjian Company called, “My pit’s the pits,” which asks high school bands to show off their poor equipment for the chance to win $10,000 worth of new intruments.

The video was posted only a few days before the school’s marching band secured its third championship in a row through the Northwest Association for the Performing Arts on Nov. 1.

That championship cemented it as one of the best band programs in the Pacific Northwest, but it’s hard to square that fact when you look around the school’s band room.

“This is not standard operating procedure,” said marching band director Kati McKee, examinging a xylophone that is literally held together with zip ties and braided bracelets.

In another part of the band's main room, a set of marimbas — a wooden mallet instrument — is covered in blue tape, signifying broken keys.

“It’s so bad that we can’t use it,” McKee said.

A bass drum secured to a stand with a bungee cord has a large fist-sized hole smashed through it, after a bolt that secured the instrument fell off, the result of years of marching band practices and competitions, Ediger said.

“It’s designed for indoor use, only,” he said. “But we needed it, so it went outside.”

The drum is still used in concerts and competitions, though. In permanent marker, someone has scribbled the word “good” on one side of the drumhead.

“That’s the good side of the drum,” Ediger said. “The other side says, ‘Bad.’”

An expensive problem

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: GEOFF PURSINGER - Music teacher Kati McKee adjusts a bungee cord holding up a large bass drum. The drums bolt fell off after it was used too much, resulting in a fist-sized hole.Unlike other instruments, such as flutes or clarinets, most students can’t afford large percussion equipment on their own and rely on the school to provide them.

But percussion equipment is expensive. Very expensive.

A set of timpani — four large drums that are a staple of any band — will run about $12,000, McKee said.

“That’s for a reasonable model, not top-of-the-line,” she said. “That’s one step up from the bottom.”

And that’s only one instrument. The band also has congas, xylophones, orchestra bells, marimba, bass drums, snare drums, cymbals, vibraphones and several other pieces of musical equipment it says needed to be replaced years ago.

“My daughter just had her 20th high school reunion, and these instruments were here when she was here,” McKee said. “That’s ridiculous.”

There’s no simple solution to fix the band’s problems.

The music department at Tigard High School receives only $5,200 in funding each year, McKee said. That goes to fund all band, orchestra, choir and guitar programs at the school.

“What we’re not going to get is more money from the district, because the district doesn’t have more money to put into it,” said McKee, who also teaches economics at Tigard High. “They should, but there’s a lot of ‘shoulds’ out there. I can make a good case for more instruments, but I can also make the case that I’m still using economic textbooks from 2004, and I’m not getting new ones until 2017. There are all these places where we don’t have the money.”

This Saturday, the school's guitar and jazz ensembles are putting on a special one-night-only concert to raise money for the program.

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to perform and, at the same time, we are hoping to get a lot of money,” McKee said. “We keep ticket prices low to get people in the door and maybe somebody will write us a check.”

Fundraising has become a fact of life for the program, McKee said. The band’s parent community raises $60,000 a year for the band to afford music and pay for instructors to work with students, McKee said.

“I can’t ask our parents to do more,” she said. “They do so much already.”

McKee said she has even tried to find corporate sponsorship.

“If some business wanted to step up and give us $10,000, I’ll tattoo their name on my forehead,” McKee said. “I’ll change the band’s name to the Leif's Autobody Marching Band. I have no pride where that’s concerned.”

Last year, the school’s band booster organizations was able to purchase some used percussion equipment for its marching band.

“It was used, and used well, but it is better than what we had,” McKee said. "We are hoping that we can get some more eventually. We’ll see.”


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