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Barstow bands march on
Despite test, funding worries
BARSTOW • An emphasis on state test scores and funding strains have significantly reduced band membership at Barstow Junior High over the last couple of years. Still, despite these hardships, the band is finding a way to win.
Last Saturday, the BJHS marching band took home the sweepstakes crown at a competition in La Palma — the first such win for BJHS, which merged from the former Barstow and Kennedy middle schools at the start of the 2004-05 school year.
“Two years ago, the state kept raising the bar,” Dan Barilone, band director at BJHS, said. “You have to get these kids in double-block math.”
What Barilone is referring to is more rigorous state expectations that have naturally trickled down to the district level and called for all kids at BJHS to participate in back-to-back Algebra-related periods; the first being a regular class, the second acting as additional support.
While Barilone fully supports the ardent test initiative, he noted that it also had meant students would miss out on a second elective, oftentimes band.
BJHS recently added an eighth period to accommodate kids interested in taking band. And, while classes are shorter, students receive more time per class than mandated by the state. Without the eighth period, Barilone estimated the BJHS marching band would have been 25 kids short this year.
He also noted that there are still likely a few hundred kids who played band in elementary school that will not be able to play for the junior high based on these double-block classes, so he spends time visiting elementary schools to stress the importance of academic performance.
Tim Garvin, band director at Barstow High School, is noticing the trend, too. According to Garvin, the BHS band, in recent memory, would receive 40-50 incoming Freshmen per year, but that number is down to 20-25 in the last few years.
“The district is really test-driven, because the state makes it that way,” Garvin said. “Kids who were having to pass proficiency exams were not.”
Barilone stated that he sees kids trying hard, explaining that most don’t mind attending after-school tutoring to ensure they pass their proficiency tests.
In addition, both bands have become well versed with the lofty weight of program funding. Each band promotes several fundraising ventures per year that affords them the ability to compete, buy band T-shirts, send leaders to camps, host end-of-the-year awards and pay for uniform upkeep.
At BJHS, it costs roughly $11,000 per year to drive the marching band program. The school district takes care of bus rides, and the little bit of state grant money the band receives is spent at the beginning of the year.
To save costs, instrument repairs are done in-house by Barilone, who takes on repair jobs for the high school as well if time and workload permit. And, while BHS just got new uniforms two years ago, the last set lasted them 24 years — an indicator of the importance in maintaining costs.
A uniform maintenance agreement at BHS of only $100 — significantly lower than the $700 to $800 other competing high school bands employ — is the lowest fee in the county, but still some kids have rough times paying it.
Regardless, Garvin said he feels the district and the community are behind the kids.
“The district has been really supportive. I’ve got what I need,” he said. “I can’t really complain too much.”
Providing another reason not to complain, in the four competitions BHS has competed in this school year, they’ve “won the tournament” twice, which refers to simultaneously garnering the following four awards: “Music Award,” “High General Effect Award,” “High Visual Effect Award” and “People’s Choice Award.”
Barilone, whose squad is still reveling in their recent victory, said things are on the upswing with a big group from the elementary schools coming in. Also, in the future, he’s working on a plan to use parents to create sponsorship programs.
The BJHS band is currently selling “K Cards” — greeting cards created by a local resident — and that fundraiser ends on Nov. 29th.
BHS will be selling compressed logs for fireplaces soon. Additional heavy-duty fundraising will begin shortly after the announcement of their “big trip.” Taken every four years, the last one was to Washington, D.C.
Aside from the team sweepstakes victory at La Palma, BJHS’ drum major also took first place and auxiliary brought home third.
For more details on how to lend support to their fundraising, contact Barilone at 760-255-6200 ext. 4324 or Garvin at 760-255-6138.