August 10, 2009 in City

Eastern silences Eagles marching band

By The Spokesman-Review
 

When the Eagles fight song rings out at EWU football games this fall, it’ll come from loudspeakers or maybe hired musicians – not the student marching band.

The Eastern Washington University band, made up of 100-plus students, is a casualty of the poor economy.

“This was an agonizing decision on our part,” said Patrick Winters, music department chairman. “A school like ours, in Division 1 sports, should have a marching band. It’s part of the atmosphere.”

The university will save about $30,000, officials said.

Like officials at all of Washington’s public universities, EWU’s administrators had to make deep cuts in its budget. For 2009-’10, they have to cut $13.3million.

The university has also raised tuition 14percent, or $640 a year, starting this fall. EWU will save about $20,000 by trimming uniform, field and instrument maintenance; not buying music and show designs; and not hiring a percussion instructor. Devin Otto, the marching band director and a lecturer, resigned after seven years to pursue his doctorate degree. His position as lecturer was filled, but the band director position was eliminated, shaving another $10,000 from the budget.

“Every department has had to make hard decisions,” said Bill Shaves, the athletic director. “I don’t think anyone is excited about this decision being made. But I think people understand we are in historic times. Anytime a good program is discontinued, it’s sad for everyone.”

Winters said officials received lots of input from faculty and students before deciding last month to cut the program.

“Marching band was the one area that wasn’t required for our music majors,” Winters said. “Almost all those (marching band) students are in other music groups, so it’s not like those kids don’t have other opportunities to play music.”

Chris Newbury, 25, a music education major, said students hoping to teach music in high school will not have “the experience of directing a marching band or learning the techniques and concepts to do that.”

Newbury, a senior, said the group also creates a festive atmosphere for football games, enhancing “the pregame, tailgating and the party end of it.”

A pep band will continue to play at basketball and volleyball games. Creation of a football pep band is under consideration.

Of the marching band, Winters said, “It would be great if sometime down the road we could restore it.”

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