Board in reversal on marching band

NASHUA – Undoing a change from two years ago, the school board has decided to again make marching band a required part of the high school band curriculum.

In 2007, the board voted to separate marching band and concert band, meaning that participating in marching band was no longer required for students who wanted to play in concert band.

After that vote, marching band became an after-school program that students could choose to take for a half credit.

Board members, at the time, said students who want to play in concert band shouldn’t also have to make the time commitment involved with playing in marching band.

Sophia Santerre, director of the high school music curriculum, said she disagreed then with the decision and that nobody from the music department was asked about his or her opinion before the change was made.

This year, the school board’s curriculum committee took up the issue again to see whether the change was warranted.

After hearing from Santerre and directors of the marching bands from both high schools, the committee recommended to reinstate marching band into the general band course.

On Monday night, the board voted 6-2 to follow the committee’s recommendation.

Board member Sandra Ziehm was on the board when the decision was made in 2007 and said she regretted that it was done without first getting input from those working in the classrooms. “In committee, I found that their arguments were persuasive,” she said. “The discipline of marching in the band is a good thing.”

Board member Jack Kelley voted against the change Monday. He said the debate has been going on for years and that he had still not heard convincing evidence as to why someone who wants to be in concert bands also needs to be in marching band.

“There is no need for someone who wants to play a concert instrument to march up and down a field,” Kelley said. “That has nothing to do with their ability to play in a concert band.”

Board member Robert Hallowell said that looking back at the record of the decision made in 2007, there was no evidence or data provided indicating why the change was necessary.

Hallowell said it was unusual to have marching band and concert band separated and said he was voting to reinstate because that is what those running the music program think is best for students. “I’m going to trust the people we hired to run those programs,” he said.

The change will go into effect for the 2009-2010 school year and will be reflected in the program of studies, which students use to select their classes for the upcoming school year.

Band is a full-year, one-credit course. Tony Corounis, director of the marching band at Nashua High School South, said marching band takes up the first quarter of the school year.

By mid-October, the class is already transitioning into concert band material, he said.

“It’s not as much of a commitment as years past,” he said. “It’s gone down tremendously.”

One of the concerns after the change was made in 2007 was that participation in marching band would drop off. According to numbers provided by the district, there was a slight drop-off at both high schools.