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Low turnout: School district suspends Auburn High marching band program

The Auburn High School marching bands has been a traditional participant in Auburn
The Auburn High School marching bands has been a traditional participant in Auburn's Veterans Day Parade.
— image credit: Reporter file photo

The Auburn School District has suspended the marching band program at Auburn High School for the 2011-2012 school year.

District Superintendent Kip Herren said Monday that too few students have signed up for the program at the oldest of the district's high schools.

Changing demographics, even the increasing number of students for whom marching band is not a part of their cultural heritage, might be partly responsible, Herren said Monday.

Indeed, Herren noted, the marching programs at Auburn Riverside and Auburn Mountainview are going great guns.

"We only have a handful of kids who are signed up for marching band, a handful," Herren said. "The opening of two new high schools and the expansion of other band opportunities" might play a part in what's happening, Herren said.

Looking at the low enrollment numbers, the district arranged for students who had signed up for marching band at Auburn to participate in Auburn Mountainview's band camp in March while the district continues to work get AHS's numbers up. Herren said the state of Washington also keeps raising the number of academic requirements to graduate in science and math, leaving fewer electives for students.

"So, we're trying to figure out ways that we can have kids meet core class requirements, because our kids want to take music every year, not just a couple times a year. There's a complex thing that's working where we actually may have many more kids participating in band, but it may be a different kind of band than marching band," Herren said.

Herren appointed a committee last spring to study ways to boost enrollment in music programs throughout the district.

Joey Tillotson, who played percussion in the marching band in its hey-day from 1985 to 1988, found the news depressing.

"Being a kid who was in band myself for eight years in the Auburn School District, marching band was huge, and it's just been really sad to watch over the years how small the AHS band has gotten," Tillotson said. "When I was in school, our band director was really into the marching band and motivated us all to be in it. He even started programs to get kids involved that had never been in band.

"I see that other districts have managed to grow their programs while I watched ours shrink. Makes me wonder if you just don't have a director that's focused on the marching band or don't have involved parents, because we had such huge support from our parents," Tillotson said.

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