If you want to see just how hard the students in the Nation Ford High School band work to make award-winning performances, grab a towel and a bottle of water and watch the kids practice in the hot summer sun.
They get sweaty and worn out marching in the heat with heavy brass instruments. And they rally each other like the football teams do on the same field. The only difference is, one team uses a ball and the other uses brass and drum sticks.
Just like coaches emphasize focusing on the goal, Nation Ford Band Director Martin Dickey urges his students to focus on every facet of being in the band – learning the music and drills, participating in band fundraisers and preparing for college. He said he believes hand work and problem-solving trickle down into the classroom.
“The kids work extremely hard,” Dickey said. “It’s about personally becoming better at what you do. We teach the kids to be leaders, hard-workers and problem-solvers.”
Now, Dickey and the band booster club have a new focus: A silent auction fundraiser they hope will raise thousands to offset annual operating costs.
The Sept. 6 silent auction will feature dinner by Maggiano’s Little Italy and the band will perform to the expected 300 or more attendees. The big-ticket items up for grabs will be goods and services donated by local businesses and individual bidders.
Lynne Hall, president of the booster club, said the auction and dinner event is a fresh approach to fundraising.
“We feel it is a good idea to implement something new every few years, so that our members do not get burned out doing the same fundraiser over and over,” Hall said. “It is a fun way to get people together for a good cause.”
The boosters hope to receive salon and spa packages, gift cards, weekend getaways, golf memberships, fitness equipment and memberships, furniture and big-ticket items such as cars and cash.
“We are appreciative of anything that businesses would like to offer,” Hall said. “No item is too small or large.”
So far, the booster club has received tickets to Panthers games and other sporting events, power tools, zoo passes, golf merchandise and lawn services, Hall said.
Dickey said the auction is a great way for businesses to get exposure in the community. All donations are tax deductible.
Each year, the boosters find creative ways to raise money, Dickey said. Oyster roasts in the spring and fall and volunteering to run concessions at Carolina Panthers games are a couple of ways to raise the approximate $150,000 needed to run the band program for one year. The students can raise nearly $30,000 to $40,000 at the Panthers games, Dickey said.
Being in the band costs nearly $1,000 per student, but the school charges the students only $350, Dickey said. The rest of the bill is left up to fundraising efforts.
“We try to do big projects so everyone can be in the band,” Dickey said. Paying the $350 price tag is “asking a lot,” he said. The booster club has a scholarship fund for students who cannot pay the yearly fee.
Operating costs for running the band program add up quickly, Dickey said. Each year, drill professional Andy Ebert writes drill marches and Frank Sullivan of Inspire Music and Entertainment Productions writes the original show. Having original music makes Nation Ford “one of the leaders in the band world,” Dickey said.
One of the benefits of having original music means the band can earn money by selling props to other schools that want to perform the program, Dickey said.
The staff teaches the program and specialists work one-on-one with different sections of the band, Dickey said.
“Our parents see this as money well spent,” he said, adding that most of the 170 band students graduate and go to college with financial assistance and a position on the college band.
This year, the band will compete in the Bands of America Grand National Championships in Indianapolis in November. Travel expenses to various performances and competitions cost about $60,000 each year for food, buses, hotels and other incidentals, Dickey said.
The band must also raise $50,000 for staff and $30,000 for maintenance expenses, uniforms and other fees, Dickey said.
Being in the band helps students like 16-year-old Katie Berry, a flutist and assistant drum major, excel in music and academics, she said.
“For me, being a part of the band has helped me be part of something that requires a lot of skill and discipline,” she said, adding that the experience taps into her success in academics. “You have to really be focused.”
Drum major John Marshall’s experience in the band will follow him to college, where he plans to earn a degree in music education, he said. He has his eyes on Ohio State University.
“Music is important in education because it takes a lot of what I learned in other classes and turns it into practical application,” said the bass clarinetist. “It also uses different parts of the brain that helps make a well-rounded student.”
Marshall and Berry will join the rest of the band in late July as the students begin summer camp and practice.