Parading out the problems

cohoes marching band

The student marching band from Cohoes High School put on quite a show, lifting the excitement level high and loud at the Capitol in Albany today during the Parade for Public Education.

The students wore crisp blue and gold band uniforms and band hats strapped on their heads. Batons, horns, drums, performance routines – they had it all.

Except, they didn’t.

Not any more.

They used to have five adults working with the band, including a drum instructor, color guard, assistant band director and pom pom director. School budget cuts eliminated four of the jobs. Now there’s just one– Kay Vallee, a music teacher and member of the Cohoes Teachers Association.

“We went from a staff of five to me,” she said, standing on the steps at the rally under a sunny March sky.

Expenses for the parades they march in used to be covered primarily by the district, Vallee said, but not any more. Now the booster club raised money to pay for most of the costs. The band performs in 10-15 parades a year, and has 42 students in its ranks.

They used to have an elementary school band program, and an elementary chorus program, but those have been cut out, too.

“Our feeder programs have really taken a hit,” she said.

And so have the teachers.

“We lost two full-time music positions last year alone,” Vallee said. And that means music theory programs have been cut as well.

This year the band will not be marching in the annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They are going to the same parade event in Syracuse, where they will be able to stay overnight in the gym of the Phoenix Middle School.

Vallee said she recently had band members write about what it means to them to be in the marching band. Students wrote about traveling, making best friends, boosting self-esteem, and the euphoria they feel when crowds cheer for them. She said the marching band also teaches teamwork and discipline, both mental and physical.

“We’re a piece of the core curriculum,” she said.

The school band was there to lend spirit to the Alliance for Quality Education’s Parade For Public Education, and to let people know they’ve been affected by rampant school cuts, too. AQE and Educate NY Now – members of a pro-public education coalition in which NYSUT has a lead role – have been fighting to restore state budget cuts for education.

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One Comment

  1. Tammy Boire March 5, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

    another great moment was when Andy Pallotta noticed school budget cuts are BANANAS sign in the crowd and then the crowd chanted Cuts Are Bananas
    cuts are bananas
    great day

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