Drumming Up Funds

A couple of college bands are in jeopardy after losing their funding provided by the university.

Halftime Magazine reports that the pep band at Wichita State and the marching and pep bands at West Liberty University in West Virginia have been defunded from Student Government and state funds, respectively. Without the funding, each ensemble's existence for the coming school year is in serious doubt.

Athletic bands exist at the nexus of athletics, music, and student organizations. This format makes for a powerful cocurricular experience, but it also allows any one entity to absolve itself of responsibility for supporting or funding such programs. At Wichita State, the pep band lost the funding earmarked for them by the Student Government Association, which also allocates student fees to student organizations. At West Liberty, state budget cuts which forced the music program to tighten its belt doomed the athletic bands program.

For those who follow major college athletics, the situation at Wichita State may seem particularly egregious. The pep band in question has accompanied perennial mid-major power Shockers men's basketball to the NCAA tournament each of the last five years, including a final four appearance in 2013 and a sweet sixteen trip in 2015. Frankly, it's a bit strange to me that the funding wasn't coming from athletics in the first place. Wichita State's SGA seemed to agree, citing among their reasons for the cut to the pep band funding their ability to be funded by other sources, including the athletic department. Hopefully, athletics will pay the support forward to ensure their games aren't a whole lot quieter in the future.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, West Liberty's athletic bands were a casualty of the increasing budget cuts to public higher education. Those cuts, which I'm sure put a strain on all academic departments and state-funded areas, may have been exacerbated by the athletic bands' perceived value to the music program. While I can't speak specifically to the climate at West Liberty, the strain between athletic bands and their music departments isn't unprecedented. Lack of musical rigor (real or perceived), their function as student organizations, and their allegiance - some may say subservience - to something as base as college athletics often "other"s them within the department. Indeed, when the cuts came to West Liberty's programs, the interim dean stated,“This decision protects current and future music students because it allows the Music Program to continue to fulfill the established curricular requirements for its degrees”. That statement portrays the athletics band programs as outside of the curricular requirements - a luxury or frivolity, depending on your interpretation.

Here's hoping that both programs find the funding necessary to continue their operations.