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Dryden school starts marching band despite budget cuts


The bell rings at precisely 11:25 a.m. Students rush down the hall and drop their brightly colored backpacks along the wall outside of the classroom. They won’t need textbooks or calculators for this particular subject. Instead, they retrieve instrument cases from their lockers that seem, in some instances, larger than the students carrying them and file into the band room.

Despite the fact that Dryden High School is still reeling from a $933,074 deficit in its budget from the 2012-2013 year, band teacher Robert Oldroyd is breathing new life into the music department. After just five weeks of entering the school district, Oldroyd plans to change the music curriculum to create a marching band that will represent the school district.

“Typically, a high school program has a marching band,” Oldroyd said, “My idea for Dryden is to create a parade band that will be involved in the Ithaca community providing a civic duty by playing at parades, Memorial Day services and football games. We want to play great music and be an integral part of the community.”

No other school district in Tompkins County has a marching band. Groton High School lost its marching band due to budget cuts, said Liz Eleck, a music teacher who has taught in the Groton Central School District for the past 28 years.

“We don’t have a marching band anymore. We were asked to make a ten percent cut to the marching band staff and it wasn’t possible for us to continue with that much of a cut,” Eleck said.

 While the lack of funding has kept Oldroyd from implementing a few of his new ideas for the department so far, such as an update to the music wing itself, he said that he was optimistic that insufficient funding would not be an paramount obstacle for the creation and sustainability of the marching band.

“I think sometimes there’s a misconception that you need a lot of money to make something successful,” Oldroyd said, “Government funding would help, but it’s not the end all. If the teacher cares about the students then they’ll find a way to make it work.”

 The creation of a marching band at Dryden High School will be central for the music department’s civic duty to its neighborhood, Oldroyd said.

 “The community does a lot for music programs and it’s our way of giving back by having a high performing marching band that is active in the community,” Oldroyd said.

 The community has helped to sustain their music department in the past years for endeavors outside of the music budget, such as the parent-run Lansing Theater and Performing Arts Booster Club, said Katie Howell, an elementary general music teacher at Lansing’s R.C. Buckley School.

“From what I’ve seen in the three-plus years I’ve worked here, Lansing considers music to be of equal value to other academic pursuits and protects it just as carefully when making budget decisions.”

Eleck said music classes are important because they give students an opportunity to use their brain, body and emotion in tandem, which is something students are not able to do in any other classroom setting.

 “Music is a skill that will last you forever; if you’ve had music in school usually it will carry through the rest of your life,” she said.

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