In their September 24th edition, the Laurel Star published a letter from one of their columnists, Frank Calio. No stranger to controversy, Calio decided it was time to fire a shot at the Laurel High School Band’s performance at a recent football home game. He writes:
I was shocked to see the photo of the Laurel High School band performing at halftime in their street clothes. Is it that the school doesn’t have uniforms or they don’t care how they represent our community?
Former band director Arthur Kretz must be rolling over in his grave.
Having a child in the band I was well aware of the reasons behind the choice of dress that evening. Brian Cass, Laurel High School band director, has issued a reply, which he submitted to the Laurel Star. It is posted here in its entirety with his permission.
I am writing in response to Mr. Calio’s opinion in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section of the September 24, 2009 issue of the Laurel Star, where he publicly expressed his “shock” at seeing the Laurel High School Band performing (in a picture) in street clothes.
I would like to start by saying, I am personally hurt and disappointed in the way Mr. Calio expressed his opinion. I am a Professional Educator and Professional Adjudicator of Marching Bands, Percussion Ensembles, Colorguard Ensembles, and Parades along the East Coast who has spent the last eight years rebuilding a Band program and a Theater program that the Laurel community and Laurel School District can be proud of. I have been involved in the High School Marching Band Activity since 1987 as a performer, teacher, and judge. As an educator I have to teach my students, that before you draw conclusions or speak your opinion, you need to find out the facts. I was never contacted by Mr. Calio, a professional journalist who has regular columns in this paper, (or anyone else) about this issue, so I feel compelled to inform the community and the readers of this paper why the decision was made to not wear uniforms to the Laurel / Christiana football game on September 11th, 2009.
The Friday morning in question was met with heavy rain in the Laurel area until around 10:30am. The rest of the day held heavily clouded skies and a drizzle that did not show up on radar. Later day radar images showed a band of rain around Dover that was moving south. For everyone’s information, I have to make a decision by 2pm on game day as to whether we perform or not, and how we will perform due to weather conditions. I should also mention that we were scheduled to perform at the Woodland Ferry Festival the very next morning. Where was the picture in the Star of the LHS Marching Band in clean uniforms representing the Laurel side of the Woodland Ferry? I was sent pictures of our band looking great at the festival in our clean uniforms from the festival coordinator, why didn’t those make the paper? Had I decided to perform in uniform the first game of the season, the Marching Band would have had muddy pants from sitting in the bleachers and marching on the field, as well as wet uniforms the next morning for our other community performance. I don’t know if Mr. Calio was at the game and known the conditions, but had he asked me personally why we were not in uniform, I would have gladly shared this information. His comment in the paper mentioned he was shocked at the photo in the paper, not about any crowd reaction at the game.
I have the responsibility to keep our students and equipment safe. With as much of a cut in budget that I have had to work with this year due to State cutbacks, I have to think of the big picture. The average repair cost for an instrument that is water damaged is $50 each. The average cost to dry clean uniforms for the whole band after they get wet and muddy is over $200. The new equipment and uniforms for the Colorguard was about $2000. By my estimation, the LHS Band takes on the field $25,000 worth of school owned equipment, $5,000 worth of parent owned instruments and $10,000 in uniforms during every performance. I must use my best judgment to protect those investments of the parents, school district, taxpayers, and donors. These instruments and supplies need to last between 10 to 20 years – many more years than they ever were designed to last. The money just is not there to replace or repair anything in our near future.
Finally, I have to respond to you, Mr. Calio, about if we care about how we represent our community. I place an offer to you or anyone who wishes, to visit a rehearsal, or stand in on a pre-performance pep talk. More than once you will hear either myself or my volunteer staff, instill in our students the belief that they are great and need to go out and perform with pride, and represent Laurel. My Students should be proud being members of the only competitive Marching Band in Sussex County. My Students should be proud to have the only competitive school based Winter Colorguard south of the C&D Canal. My Students should be proud of the continual and steady growth both the band and theater programs have seen in the last 8 years. I correct myself, they ARE proud of these accomplishments, and any of my graduates are proud to have been a part of the rebuilding and growth of Laurel’s Performing Arts Department.
Mr. Brian A. Cass
Director of Bands and Theater, Laurel High School
I would ask anyone that supports Brian Cass and the Laurel High School Band to send a letter of support to the Laurel Star. The email address at the Star is firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in mind that your note to the Star may be edited for space or not published at all for other reasons. That’s just the way papers must function. As always, comments are also welcome here.
I have worked with Brian Cass. Additionally, he has instructed both of my youngest sons in band and theater. There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Cass has the interests of the Laurel High School in mind when he made the call to leave the uniforms behind. The few years that I have known Brian I recognize that his aim is for excellence for the creative arts under his care. This has translated into positive results in my children, and I am sure it has in many more students.
It would be good for Mr. Calio to pay a visit to a band rehearsal. It may change his mind about the whole matter.