HOUSTON – You can't play baseball without bats, football without helmets or basketball without a goal. Its the same way with band and band instruments.
The Houston Board of Trustees were approached earlier this month about a long-range plan to purchase instruments for the Topper Pride Marching Band.
“Marching band instruments are expensive and while we ask most of our students to provide their own instruments, most district do school instruments,” said Houston Band Director Jim Stites. “Properly cared for these instruments last a long time and a lot of students can use them over the 20 to 40 year life of these instruments.”
Stites pitched the full package to trustees with three tubas, three Sousaphones, four French horns and a marimba or xylophone carrying an $80,000 price tag.
“I also want to point out these are initial prices,” said Stites. “I think if we get bids, look into grants or ask to do business with these companies long term the prices will come down.”
The Houston High School marching band is currently hampered in the music it can play and has difficulty competing against other schools that have a full drum line and complete brass ensemble.
“What I am bringing to you is a plan to take our band to the next level,” said Stites. “I came here two years ago and no one could tell me how long it had been since the band purchased instruments. It's time to buy some instruments and make us a better band.”
Stites said the instrument would also be used in concert competition.
“This fall I asked you to look at our band instruments and then the band instruments of the high school bands and marched on our field after us,” said Stites. “It's time we purchased new instruments.”
Houston Superintendent Dr. Steve Coker pointed out more Houston students get band scholarships than any given athletic program.
Trustees took no action on the measure but did ask Stites to come back at future meeting with a more detailed list and prices.
Stites is in his second year a band director and carried the Topper Pride Marching Band to Tupelo last fall for the MHSAA Region 1 Marching Band Festival where they competed against 27 bands and carried away a 2 in the four-place scoring.
Topper Pride Marching Band is made up of about 75 musicians.
In 2013 trustees cut their band program to one, full time director after band leader Richard Shirey and assistant band director Josh Robinson took jobs at other school districts. The board then turned around and hired Stites, an assistant band director and music teacher at Southaven High School, with the understanding he would not have an assistant and he needed to grow the program. They have since hired an assistant band director.