By Elizabeth Geli
Posted March 2010
Despite a dire music education situation in the Detroit public schools, a glimmer of hope has emerged for their marching band students. Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb announced the return of the All City High School Marching Band.
The All City band was formed in 2001 to accept an invitation for the 2002 Tournament of Roses Parade, and the band played at various events until 2004 when it went defunct due to a lack of funding.
“I welcomed the opportunity to revise the band because in the schools without band programs, there are still students who receive training and try to get scholarships for college,” says Benjamin Pruitt, supervisor of fine arts for the Detroit Public Schools. “This would at least allow them to perform in an ensemble.”
Bobb secured a $25,000 pledge from a private group, the Pickard Family Fund, which will match the first $25,000 donated in support of the band. In addition, the Detroit Public Schools made an initial donation of $25,000. They are currently soliciting more donations to reach the band’s needed start-up cost of $125,000.
And while this money could have been used to reinstate music programs at individual schools, in some ways it can go farther by supporting the All City group, planners say. “I admit that is the way to go,” Pruitt says. “I would love to see us return to the days of old when we had instructors at all the elementary, middle and high schools, but it doesn’t look good for that to be the case ever again in my lifetime.”
In 2001 the All City band drew its 300 members from 19 high school marching bands. Currently, out of 22 total high schools (including alternative high schools), only nine still have instrumental music; of those, only six have marching programs.
“I would feel this would be a success if we could get together a band of 100 or more,” Pruitt says. “The Detroit schools were a model for the nation and had the best programs in the country, but everything rapidly declined about 10 years ago.”
According to Pruitt, some students at schools without marching programs have continued to take private lessons or participate in outreach programs sponsored by the local Michigan universities and other community groups. These students will be welcomed into the All City group as long as they can successfully complete the audition process.
The band will hold auditions in early June and rehearse five days a week throughout June and July, then resume once-a-week practices during the school year. Although the band has not yet scheduled any performances, they will likely perform in local Detroit parades and are hoping to receive more invitations for special events.
To make a donation, visit www.detroitpsfoundation.org.