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Monday, February 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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EWU marching orders could bring out amoebic band geezers

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

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