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Budget cuts won’t silence music program

September 16, 2011
Emily Siegmon - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

HILLMAN - After Hillman Community Schools made the tough choice to cut its music program because of budget issues, parents, students, staff and community members did what they could to bring music back to their school district. Hillman High School is offering students an after-school music club, available for seventh through 12th grade students, and will be led by volunteer JoDee Reinbold.

Board President Brad McLaren said the music program was cut originally because of the low number of students interested in the past.

"No one wanted to eliminate the program, but we can't have one right now while we have a serious money problem. Cutting the program was extremely difficult, but it was something we had to do in order to balance out our budget," said McLaren, adding the board is trying to avoid borrowing money.

McLaren and Shawn Olson, interim superintendent, are hoping for the best and support the after-school music club. Both Olson and McLaren would like to see people participate in the club and would like the music program to return to Hillman in the future.

"Music is the heartbeat of our school. However, our revenue is made through kids in seats, which didn't economically work out. It's a math equation, and we have spent over our means when we should have saved more money when times were good," McLaren said.

Reinbold is encouraging students to come whenever they are available, with whatever instrument they play. She currently is looking for funding for the music club and hopes the students will be able to participate and travel to different musical events in the future.

"Brad McLaren and Shawn Olson have been great motivators and gave us the initial go-ahead to try this out; everyone has been really helpful and accommodating. I've already sent letters to our governor and have applied to different save the music foundations for financial assistance," Reinbold said.

So far, the after-school club has around 22-25 students, according to Reinbold. She is hoping there eventually will be 20-30 core students who will participate. The club meets Monday through Thursday in the band room of Hillman High School. On Monday the club focuses on woodwinds, Tuesday brass instruments, and Wednesday is a mixed group. Thursday will be dedicated to marching band during the football season, and then it will switch to choir and pep band, where they willfocus on Christmas concerts starting in November.

"Right now we have close to 12 parents and volunteers who are diligently working on helping me find additional funding or are volunteering their time to teach our children," Reinbold said.

Reinbold has a son who plays the trumpet and is on the football team, and he was extremely disappointed that the music program closed, she said.

"When we take music away, we take away self-expression. These kids need to be heard, and this is the best way to do it," Reinbold said.

Currently, Reinbold's biggest concern about the after-school club is funding and if it will be able to participate in band festivals. She is hoping for sponsorship and is working on financial difficulties, but she also is questioning what will happen with transportation and if the club will have access to participate in festivals.

"I want people to know we have talented musicians. These kids need a chance to get exposed to performance arts, scholarships and scouts."

Reinbold is looking for a volunteer piano player, drummers, and jazz musicians to come in and work with the high school students a few hours a week. Reinbold said that even though the after-school club is just starting, things have been running smoothly. She is hoping that they will be ready when things get hard.

"I originally decided to take charge because I have always been involved in music. All of my children play instruments. I've seen people's lives dramatically change because of music, and I know that Hillman children need a musical outlet," Reinbold said.

Jessica Butcavage, a senior at Hillman, has been playing the flute for eight years and decided to join the after-school music club.

"When I found out that the music program was cut, my heart broke. We worked so hard to raise money for it, and everyone put everything they had into it; we were a big family," she said.

Butcavage hopes the club can build on what it already has and knows to have a good band season, but she fears students might not like the changes or the way music is being taught.

"It's just not the same. Everything that we play and do has a different atmosphere. Even our school songs seem different now," she said. "We all miss our former band instructor. We hope that he finds a job where the students will love him as much as we did."

The students involved in the music club are planning on marching during the next home football game.

Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5687.



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