Some Georgia school bands don't travel, save money

No sound of fights songs for high school football teams playing away games
Thursday should have been a game day for the Brunswick High marching band, but travel restraints forced the band to rehearse in lieu of a trip to the Pirates' football game in Savannah. Back

BRUNSWICK, Ga.  - As many times as the Brunswick High football team scored Thursday night in its 50-8 victory over Savannah High in Savannah, the school's marching band might have actually grown tired of playing their fight song.


However, Savannah High's marching band was the only one playing because the Brunswick High, like its crosstown counterpart, Glynn Academy, is staying home for most road games. The play-at-home bands resulted from the Glynn County school board's budget cuts this school year.

Administrators have cut $13.8 million from the district's general fund, which pays for school system operations, personnel and classroom programs. The cuts were needed to offset the anticipated loss of millions in state funding and a decrease in property tax revenue.

By pinching pennies to eliminate transportation for the bands, which can use as many as seven buses for a road trip, the school system is saving $15,400 in travel costs for the bands and in the elimination of certain athletic programs this year, said Assistant Superintendent Andrea Preston, who oversees system finances.

"It's a big sacrifice for us," said Glynn Academy band director Chris Duke, who leads the school's 100-member marching unit. "We want to be there to support the team and perform, but we also understand we have to do our part to help right the ship so the system can be financially stable for the future."

The band did perform Thursday, albeit at an afternoon practice behind the school.

During a water break, students expressed some displeasure that they weren't with the team.

"What's a football game without a band?'' 10th-grader Latonya Billue asked. "It's going to be dead silence and boring.''

"We practice two days a week, then we don't get to go,'' said Brianna Henderson, a freshman tuba player.

Several decisions, including the one affecting the bands, were difficult for administrators to make, school Superintendent Howard Mann said.

"These [decisions] hurt me personally," Mann said. "I remember traveling to another area to compete and participate in high school athletics, and it's part of the high school experience. That's why it hurt me so much."

Glynn is scheduled to play five games out of town this season to Brunswick's four, not counting possible playoff games, but the bands were told they could make only one road trip this fall.

A private donor, who chose not to be identified, has promised to foot the bill for travel expenses to an additional road game for each band this season.

Glynn's band is already planning to go to Wayne County on Oct. 1, while Brunswick's band is scheduled to make the trip to Valdosta Friday night.

"We pride ourselves in having an active role in the game," said Brunswick band director John Birge, who leads a 130-member group. "It adds a lot to the game experience, and our kids are missing out on an opportunity they should have.

"It's disappointing not getting to go, but we understand the excess money it takes, so it makes sense."

Birge said the $70,000 reduction to supplemental funding for the systemwide music programs is a bigger issue than not performing at halftime of road games.

"Our top priority is raising money for the basic essentials now," he said of the band's booster club.

Mann said the economic outlook isn't good for the immediate future and additional reductions in state funds may be on the horizon, which could mean more cuts locally.

Camden County has had to make cuts across the board including its music program, but the high school's marching band hasn't been affected, said Florence Sparks, public relations director for the school with one of the nation's top-ranked football teams.

In Ware County, the high school band's travel expenses are still being covered, though the school system has had to reduce budgets for other programs, said Theresa Martin, public information director for the district.

But Brunswick senior flute player Deepa Bhakta said she hopes the current underclassmen in the school band won't face this same issue in the future.

"It's disappointing," she said. "I remember my first away game my freshman year and exactly how I felt going onto another field. Riding the buses out of town is a good bonding time, and some of the friends I met my first year are some of my best friends now."

Glynn football coach Rob Ridings said the bands add an extra flavor to the Friday night game atmosphere.

"We enjoy having the bands at games," he said. "They provide a lot of spirit and enthusiasm."



Savannah River Site resumes normal activity

A suspicious item was discovered Wednesday afternoon at the Savannah River National Laboratory which prompted emergency responseactivities.

... Read more