August 13, 2009 in City

EWU marching orders could bring out amoebic band geezers

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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What in the sacred name of John Philip Sousa is going on inside the shallowed halls of my alma mater, Eastern Washington University?

Bean counters have decided to save $30,000 by dropping the student marching band program.

This is such a sour note.

I know. Times are tough. Colleges are hurting, too.

But $30k is spit-valve dribble to a university budget. Why, 30 grand probably won’t cover a month’s worth of administrative bar tabs.

Yeah, I’ll admit it. I have a mutt in this fight. I logged time as a uniformed member of the Eastern marching band back when I was a trumpet-playing music major.

And I can tell you from personal experience, a college football game is simply not as festive without the ol’ band blatting away in support.

Can you imagine hearing your beloved school fight song pre-recorded and piped through stadium loudspeakers? Eastern, I read, may actually stoop to such a canned indignity.

It’s a crime, I tell you. Marching band offers so much more for kids than mere music and pageantry. What other venue, for example, lets the lowly bass drum player act out in such a way?

And learning a complex halftime formation takes hours and hours of rehearsal. During the downtime, a nerdy French horn player might summon the nerve to finally ask a flutist for a date.

Hey, it could happen.

I learned to march at Joel E. Ferris High School. We members of the mighty Saxon band would clomp up and down the field until we could maintain a reasonably straight line. Then our band director, Mr. Summers, would try patiently to get us to briskly march into the shape of something like a hot air balloon while playing, say, “Up, Up and Away.”

Most of the time, alas, we wound up forming into a giant, shapeless amoeba while poor Mr. Summers stared dejectedly like a man contemplating a career change.

Upon graduation, I headed to Eastern to further my education and avoid being drafted into the Vietnam War. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Some of the best times I had at Eastern came while playing in the band.

These university band-killers have no idea what a potential public relations mess this could be. I’m betting there are thousands of washed up ex-band members like me out in the community. With a little planning we could all head to Cheney and march over campus in the form of a giant shapeless amoeba.

Eastern is a Division 1 sports school. It deserves a marching band.

If EWU wants to cut something worthless it should ax the math department.

I went to Eastern for four years. I never set foot in the math department.

So, really, how essential can it be?

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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