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And the Band Played On -
But not without a serious
commitment to fundraising

by the AFRDS

On January 1, 2001, 350 million viewers took in the pageantry of the 112th Annual Tournament of Roses Rose Parade. Among the floats, the pretty girls in pretty cars, the high-stepping horses and gobs of rose petals, were 4,000 excited teenagers from sixteen high school bands participating in what was, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to march before the world. Hours of practice, preceded by hours of behind-the-scenes coordination by bandleaders, students and their parents are impressive enough. Add the fact that almost every one of these bands had to first raise the money before they could make the trip. Now, that's a story to tell.

It cost more than $4 million dollars for 6,000 high school students in 26 marching bands to participate in last fall's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the 2001 Rose Bowl Parade. The cost per student can run between $550 to $850 (depending on how far the group is traveling and how much equipment they are carrying). In almost every case, expenses were paid for by the students who raised the money themselves. Among their fundraising activities: Christmas tree pick-up; march-a-thons; car washes; golf tournament; televised auction; "cow chip" contest; steak, chicken, barbecue dinners; raffles; adopt-a-band member program; painting addresses on curbs and other community service projects; and sales of candles, coupon books, magazines,gift wrap, candy, fruit, pizza, frozen food, cookie dough and other food items.

Indeed, candy, magazines, gift-wrap and scores of other popular consumer items are as commonplace in the band room as drums, uniforms and sheet music. Everything from lollipops to phone cards are sold in the name of music education. Recent statistics suggest you can't have one without the other.

According to a 2000 survey of school music directors by Instrumentalist magazine, 82 percent of all school music programs (91 percent of high school music programs) engaged in some form of fundraising - which includes product sales, cash donations, ticket sales and any other funds from sources other than taxes. Survey respondents reported that taxes paid for only 48% of their schools' music programs, while fundraising made up the difference at 52%.

Fifty-four percent of the money raised by high school bands paid for travel and competition expenses; 23% for outside consultants to score music and choreograph drills; 21% for instruments and equipment; and 2% for sheet music, according to the Instrumentalist survey.

The Lassiter High School Marching Trojan Band in Marietta, GA, directed by Alfred Watkins, is no stranger to commitment - on and off the field. The Lassiter Marching Band has performed: twice for President Ronald Reagan; at the 1984 World's Fair and numerous televised events including the 2001 Tournament of Roses Parade. Lassiter placed 5th in the 1990 Bands of America Grand National Championships; third in 1994; before finally taking home top honors in 1998 - a hard-earned honor that involved two regional competitions leading up to the finals in Indianapolis. This year the 340-member band raised $180,000, dramatically higher than the average high school music fundraising budget which is roughly $22,500 according to Instrumentalist.

Lassiter's year-round fundraising activities include Christmas Tree and coupon book sales, corporate sponsorships, concession stand rights at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, an annual golf tournament and online shopping. The money helps underwrite two full semesters of instruction required for five symphonic bands, two separate marching bands, a jazz band and numerous performing chamber ensembles. According to current Ways and Means Chairman for the Lassiter Band Booster Club Dave Stone, "Our school district has provided us with an excellent band directors, bus transportation and emergency assistance as needs arise. We do the rest."

Behind Every Good Band is a Good Booster Club

Dick and Nancy Lee spent nine years supporting two children through the Lassiter program, serving in every capacity from "poncho duty" (distributing, collecting and drying ponchos on rainy game nights) to co-presidents of the booster club two years in a row. "A Friday night football game at Lassiter requires 40-50 volunteers," according to Mr. Lee, who estimates he and his wife (both have full-time jobs) each invested an additional 40 hours a week in the Lassiter High School music program between 1989 and 1998. "We just ran on adrenaline," Lee said. As it is for most band parents, fundraising was a major part of their responsibilities.

"Back then our annual fundraising goal was $43,000 which we raised mainly with one product sale and one special event," according to Lee who now trains other booster clubs across the country to effectively support their children's musical education and still have fun. "The money paid for additional instructors, music and instruments," Lee said. "A field percussion unit can cost $8,000 to $10,000 each, not to mention the equipment required to move it all."

"Mr. Watkins told us once that we made it possible for him to do what he does best - direct music and teach kids," said Lee. "I never forgot that."


About the Author:

This article is from the Spring 2001 issue of the Fundraising Edge, an online publication of the Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers, and is reprinted with permission. Visit their web site at for more information and a look at the complete issues of the Fundraising Edge.

The Association of Fund-Raising Distributors and Suppliers will provide a complimentary list of members offering fundraising products and services in your particular state, along with a checklist for evaluating fundraising companies. To order, write to: "Fundraising Checklist-Fund$Raiser" c/o AFRDS, 5775-G Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, Atlanta, GA 30342. Be sure to let them know you heard about them from the Fund$Raiser Cyberzine.

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