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District may orchestrate increase in fees for band

Students who use school-owned instruments would pay $40 instead of $20 to help keep the instruments in good shape, officials say.

By ROBERT KING

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2000


The assortment of school-owned tubas, kettle drums, oboes and bassoons found in school band rooms around Hernando County are costly instruments that need constant upkeep and occasional repair.

That's why district officials want to double the fees charged to kids who use instruments owned by the school from $20 to $40. The School Board must approve the change, which would take effect during the coming school year.

Most people agree that $40 a year is meager considering instruments like the sousaphone can cost $3,000 to $4,000. Still, high school band members already pay $135 just to be a part of the band. Middle school band members pay a $15 band fee. Other incidentals add to the expense.

Mike and Nancy Dooley know all about financing student musicians. They have three kids in two school bands -- at Hernando High and Parrott Middle School. One of their girls, who plays cumbersome percussion instruments, relies on school equipment.

"We hate to see the prices go up, but it's understandable," said Mike Dooley, vice president of Hernando High's band booster club. "They are not cheap to upkeep, and they do have to provide for new instruments."

The increase in rental fees for school-owned band instruments is one of a handful of price increases the School Board is being asked to approve.

The graduation fee (covering diplomas, medals, caps and gowns) would go from $40 to $45. Students in a "principles of clothing" class would pay a $20 materials fee. And woodworking students would pay slightly higher fees.

The fee for school-owned band instruments is the steepest increase. But the School Board's decision to raise it doesn't necessarily mean schools will adhere to it. Several schools contacted Monday say they do not charge the $20 rental fee. Powell Middle School band director Kathy Thompson wasn't aware the fee existed.

At Parrott, band director Bruce Brazinski said many of his students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. For some, the only hot meal they eat comes at school. So when it comes to school-owned instruments, the fee is forgotten. "We don't want anyone to not take band because of economic hardship," he said.

Hernando's Tom Damato is one band director who assesses the rental fee for school-owned instruments, though some kids take the entire school year to pay it. He says the fee is so low it never will cover the cost of the instrument, but it can help maintain them.

Frequently, schools work out ways for low-income families to cover band instruments. Fundraisers help, and music lovers in the community sometimes donate old instruments in hopes the magic will rub off on a new generation.

Some lament the costs band students endure, especially because many athletes spend little, if anything, for the tools of their trade. "We live in a society that reveres athletes," Thompson said.

Some sports do generate big gate receipts, but school district officials, including Superintendent John Sanders, were mostly at a loss to explain the separate standards.

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