March 29, 2019
Dear Athens Drive Band families,
First of all, I want to THANK those families who responded to the LONDON SURVEY that we sent out a few weeks ago. 76 families responded to the survey and many took the time to thoroughly express their thoughts/feelings concerning a trip of this nature. The comments were sincere and written in a very positive manner. I appreciate everyone’s willingness to seriously think through a trip like this from both a personal perspective and the impact such a trip would make on our program.
It is with some disappointment—and even embarrassment—that I have decided to forego this trip. Yes, it would have been remarkable for our band, school, and community…and yes, hindsight suggests that I should have sent the survey first before making such a grand announcement that “we were going.” I apologize for the stress that such an announcement created in some households; please understand that this was not my intention. I was trying to launch this endeavor with the gusto that I hoped would propel it into reality.
What we learned from the surveys was that over 30 of the families who responded stated that they simply could not “afford” this type of venture due to current and future obligations (such as college expenses). Of the 40+ families who responded affirmatively, several of these expressed serious financial strain and several are still carrying large balances in their band accounts. In the end, it was really a “no-brainer.” It’s simply not the right venture for our program at this time.
So, where do we go from here?
The booster board created a wonderful spread sheet listing the trips that our band has taken over the past 15 years listing cost, payment plans and number of participants. We have enjoyed performing throughout the Eastern United States from as far north as NYC to as far south as Tampa, Florida. It would be appropriate to travel somewhere next year as we have refrained from any type of trip this year with the majority of our students.
The trip that I am drawn to most is to revisit Washington D.C. and perform in our nation’s Memorial Day Parade the weekend of May 23-25, 2020. Our band marched in this parade in 2013; the student cost was $395. In addition to visiting the monuments & museums, we enjoyed a concert by the Marine Band. I spoke with Mr. Mares today and he enthusiastically endorsed this venture and promised that he would be able to get this trip approved despite the WCPSS ban on travel in May. The timing of this trip would also give all of our families a full year to raise the funds needed to go.
We’ll put together some details concerning this trip over the next few months so that everyone will be able to see the complete overview before the current school year ends. In the meantime, a gentle, but firm reminder:
As much as possible, the balances owed on band accounts need to get paid so that we can pay our vendors/instructors for their services. At the very least, please communicate with our treasurers to set-up some kind of payment plan. It must be reiterated that students/families will be restricted from participating in marching band, winter percussion, and winter guard next year if they are carrying large balances with no payment plan in place. I have spoken with Mr. Mares about this policy (which was adopted by our board 18 months ago) and he affirmed that it can be enforced as these ensembles meet outside the school day and require a sizable amount of extra resources (instructors, choreography, entry fees, uniforms, equipment, etc.). Please know that the last thing we ever want to do is to deny a student the opportunity to enjoy these activities. However, when no communication and no effort is made to contribute a “fair share,” it is not fair to the other students involved—nor the organization as a whole. In removing the London trip from the “table,” let’s all breathe a bit and clean up our house so that we can move forward in a fiscally responsible manner.
Toward this end, it is likely that our booster board is going to launch a special campaign in May to raise several thousand dollars to specifically help those students/families that have communicated the need for assistance. The board is also trying to establish some fundraisers that students can work and that are easy to sign-up for. Please read upcoming notes from these parents who are working very hard to keep this program operating at a top-notch level.
That’s enough for one letter! Spring break is almost here! Let’s finish our current year strong with our terrific group of SENIORS and we’ll be posting information about our upcoming MARCHING BAND SEASON very soon!
Thank you for EVERYTHING you do to make our band so special! It is an honor to serve you.