LANSING, Mich. — Two Lansing high schools are nixing their marching band programs this year because of low participation.
“It's very important. It's one of the main reasons I enjoy going to school. It makes me want to come to school. It's my favorite part of the day, band classes,” said Eliana McDonald, a student at Lansing's Eastern High School.
McDonald has been participating in band since middle school and now in her senior year was looking forward to one more band season, but the marching bands at Eastern and J.W. Sexton High School were cut because not enough kids signed up this year.
It’s a decision that has raised concerns in the community.
“English language arts, social studies, and science. Every one of them shows up in music education. Specifically marching band because not only do we include music but movement as well. So in mathematics, we’re dealing with rhythm. In science we’re dealing with acoustic sound,” says music educator Lamar Phillips, who works with the Detroit Public Schools.
Everett High School Band Director Penny Filonczuk agrees with Phillips but says the pandemic is mostly to blame for the lack of student participation.
“I did not get any incoming freshman in the band this year. So it has everything to do with the pandemic. Also, the other two high schools got new band directors about a month ago,” Filonczuk.
Filonczuk says both factors really hindered the band programs at Sexton and Eastern.
She says a concerned parent reached out to her hoping to find a spot for her child.
“The parent said to me, ‘Hey, I’ve got a senior who is planning to study music education at a university and she really doesn’t want to miss out on band once again because we all missed it last summer,'” Filonczuk said.
Filonczuk checked with her principal and ended up calling all the seniors from Eastern and Sexton who had signed on to be in the marching band, welcoming them to come join the Everett band. Five kids total from Sexton and Eastern will become part of Everett’s marching band program.
School district officials say despite the fact that Eastern and Sexton have chosen not to have marching bands this year students will still get band classes during the regular school day.
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