Thanks to a grant from Gila River Indian Community, the award-winning MHS Marching Band will get a uniform upgrade an other improvements. Photo by William Lange

Like any school program, Maricopa High School Marching Band has a lot of needs.

The growing student population means a shortage of uniforms. Contest judges consistently comment the band needs more sousaphones to give the band a richer undertone. The drum line is well past its prime and showing it.

When prioritizing, it was decided new uniforms were No. 1 on the list. That became the focus of fund-raising over the past couple of years.

The other issues, like the aging drum line and a shortage of sousaphones, were set back with hopes of finding funding later.

An announcement this week by the Gila River Indian Community, however, could check all of those items off the wish list.

Uniforms themselves are very expensive. While the band members were rounding up about $5,000 a year, it was still well below what was necessary.

“We knew we needed to do a lot more than that,” MHS Music Director Ivan Pour said.

The entire district is under a tight budget, though it has done what it can to help the music department. Last year’s agreement with the district to match the department’s fund-raising efforts brought the total to almost $30,000 to buy more than 100 uniforms.

The band will be able to buy more instruments, hats and uniform pants with the grant funding. Photo by William Lange
The band will be able to buy more instruments, hats and uniform pants with the grant funding. Photo by William Lange

The uniforms did not include proper marching-band hats. This year, in debuting their new uniforms, the band members have been wearing baseball caps. There is also a shortage of uniform pants.

Parent Carol Shrock heard about grants available from Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and Ak-Chin Indian Community. Such community grants from gaming funds often go to police, libraries and food banks. A marching band seemed a novelty for that program, but Pour suddenly became a grant-writer.

The first grant due was from the GRIC. The band director had a week to fill out the application and submit it. This was near the end of the girls’ basketball season, and Pour filled out paperwork on the bus as the band traveled to Glendale in musical support of the team.

It was the beginning of a seven-month process. Gaming contributions must go through cities and counties. MHS Marching Band partnered with Pinal County and had to get that body’s approval, too.

Wednesday, Pour was informed the Gila River Community Council had voted unanimously to approve a grant for $75,000. It will be paid over two years to the Maricopa High School Band Infrastructure Project.

“This is very exciting for the MHS band program,” Pour said. “This will help improve our performance.”

Though he has not yet been able to speak with a GRIC representative about the grant, Pour believes the band’s reputation had the attention of the council, and the growth of the band has included more GRIC members.

In the notification to the school district, Program Director for the Gila River Office of Special Funding Cheryl Pablo stated, “We will begin processing the award immediately and an official award letter will be sent out as soon as we have it signed by Governor [Stephen Roe] Lewis. I would like to offer my personal congratulations to your organization and look forward to our continued working relationship!”

Pour said the funds will not only allow the band to buy 60-90 pairs of uniform pants, hats and plumes for everyone and the hat boxes to put them in but also will meet the other needs that have been on the back burner.

Normally, pieces of drum line are replaced every six years. MHS band’s drum line is more than 10 years old. The sets were already used when the school purchased them in 2006.

“Some are in rough shape,” Pour said. “Harnesses are starting to give. We’ve done a good job making them last.”

The funding will allow the school to replace that drum line.

Then there are the sousaphones, or marching tubas. The band has been using three tubas, a paltry number for a top-of-the-line marching band. The small-bore tubas are actually meant for orchestra use. Pour said the result of the grant will be seven sousaphones on the field, and the orchestra tubas will be able to go back inside.

The band has not had enough spare instruments to rent to parents who do not buy. Renting from stores can be $20-$50 a month, depending on the instrument. As the school’s music department picks up a few more pieces, parents will be able to rent at a fraction of the store costs.

“We really feel strongly our district supports our program tremendously,” Pour said. “They’ve always tried to do what they can.”

Along with huge gratitude to GRIC, he thanked the district and the county for coordinating the grant process.

Saturday, the MHS Marching Band will perform at the Arizona Marching Band Association (AZMBA) Mesquite Show along with 11 other bands. Oct. 22, the Rams will be in the Sounds along the San Tans Marching Invitational at Basha High School.

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