Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer
Franklin High School (FHS) Band Director, Buddy Huckabee, has been busy with his class this year gearing up for a very special event. The FHS Band will be playing at the Sugar Bowl this year. This is a very prestigious event for any high school band and is thought to be the toughest to get accepted for. Huckabee explains.
“For any Bowl Game, directors across the country have to go through a series of audition materials and sending in videos, tapes, and judges comments from the past two or so years,” he said. “You also have to send in pictures, audio, and video files of any extra things you do within the community like jazz band performances, parades, veteran’s celebrations, etc. Directors then can choose the bowl game for which they would like to be considered. After their audition committee goes through hundreds of audition packets for the following year, bands are selected for the bowl game (usually 10 per game) for the Sugar Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Gator Bowl, Citrus Bowl, Liberty Bowl, and Orange Bowl. These bowl games are the ones that are open to high school band participants. The others usually have college bands performing half-time shows.
After being selected for the Sugar Bowl, the fundraising begins. The premier fund raiser that has been going on for decades is the annual Indian River fruit sale that helps students raise funds for their trips. The fruit will be delivered in mid-December just in time for Christmas.
“We currently have 80 students, and 24 chaperones participating in the event. We will leave Franklin High School on Dec. 29, and head to New Orleans. While we are there, we will compete in a band competition with nine other bands from around the country. (We are one of the two bands from the south). Also, while in New Orleans, we will be featured in the annual Sugar Bowl Parade down the world famous Bourbon Street. There is a Jazz/Dance Band performance at Liberty Square that we will perform after the parade. After the parade, the 10 bands in attendance will then join together for two days of rehearsals to put together a spectacular half-time show for the 85,000-plus spectators for the game. We hope that the ESPN or FOX cameras will gets a glimpse of us during half-time, but it is never guaranteed with live broadcasting.
“We are also currently trying to raise funds to add a neat experience while we are at the bowl game. New Orleans is the site of the National WWII museum. The band boosters and the staff/directors would like for every participant in this trip to experience the WWII museum. The museum has a 4D theatre Experience and a “hands on” add-on to the standard tickets so that students can experience the sights, sounds, and actual remake of the WWII experience. They can experience what it was like to be inside some of the machinery and combat vehicles. The costs for the full experience is $42 per person. The band booster club and a few town members have been trying to help us get this added experience for our students by raising funds for this as well. The Sugar Bowl Half time Show, the parade and the marching competition experience, plus the Jazz Dance Band performance trip will definitely be a once in a lifetime opportunity for our program. I would love for anyone that can to order fruit in the near future from our website and help us successfully get every student to New Orleans.”
Calming the rumor mill
At the beginning of the school year, a Facebook post regarding the cost of student participation in the band, from a concerned parent asking for help from anyone to assist her in paying the band fees. Huckabee holds four to five parent meetings each spring to address what band encompasses. He goes over travel expectations, fees that cover bus drivers, their portion of the music, money for staff, and how they will need to purchase the items the school does not provide (marching shoes, gloves, t-shirts, and pants.) Occasionally, parents fail to attend the parent meetings and send their student to the Summer Camp without any prior knowledge of the program. They then get charged for these materials for their children, as the school orders them, and they receive a bill just like any other organization or group that has to order things.
This particular Facebook posting parent was put at ease by Huckabee after he addressed her concerns. He explained about the meetings and ways to set up payment plans and they discussed the entire band experience.
“The parent was then offered a payment plan that fit her needs and everything was wonderful after that,” he explains. The parent apologized explaining that she was merely looking for help for funding. Huckabee also explained that they do fundraisers throughout the year to also assist her.