Another letter of support for the band

Thank you Judy Gary @virginiaconsort for this letter of support which appears in the May 2 issue of the Daily Progress

An Open Letter To Charlottesville’s Mayor and City Council

Sometimes well-intentioned people can make unfortunate mistakes. We believe our city’s mayor and city council surely have our community’s best interests at heart, but they have made a horrendous mistake: for the first time in ninety-four years, our city will not be offering financial support to our extraordinary Municipal Band.

I’m biting my tongue not to describe the decision-makers as just plain stupid. Perhaps “uninformed” is a better – or at least kinder – description of this abysmal decision. The years, the dedication, the extraordinary Band-run community facility (the Municipal Arts Center) used by so many local groups, the completely FREE public performances and outreach concerts, and, of course, the excellence of the ensemble, are compelling reasons to fund this group. Our Municipal Band is not only an outstanding community resource but also a source of immense community pride.

One more startling fact: The Band was not informed of this decision! After receiving funding for 93 years, they had to learn they had been defunded by reading about it in the paper! Please tell us what is happening here? Who is in charge of such a fiasco?

Is there some way this decision can be reevaluated? Is there a way to rectify this horrible mistake and restore funds to our Charlottesville Municipal Band? Admitting a mistake of this magnitude may be embarrassing, but in this case it is the honorable and wise thing to do.

Letter to the Editor on the defunding of the band

From a letter to the editor in Charlottesville Daily Progress 4.24.16

I have been reluctant to weigh in on the decision of Charlottesville to defund the Municipal Band. I reside in Greene County and do not pay taxes to the city.
However, this decision was: drastic; explained with an illogical rationale; and something that affects the culture and image of Central Virginia.

Disclaimer: I am not in the Municipal Band, but I am a wind player.

These days, cities and towns tend to have, for want of a better term, a personality that draws like-minded people. Charlottesville is, on a smaller scale, something like Austin, Texas. This city has world-class jazz musicians who could be and have been a part of the New York scene but would rather live here.
The Municipal Band is one of the oldest wind bands in the country. Even at that, it is wonderful that the city chose to fund it for so long and so generously. We are grateful for that. In fact, the funding was so generous for a city of this size and in these times, no reasonable person could argue against a substantial cut.
Complete defunding is another matter entirely. Moreover, the rationale for it is as bad as the defunding itself. The band was classified as social services rather than as the arts. You can look at it two ways, either as an insult to the musicians or a reflection on political leaders who don’t understand or appreciate art. This is the logic coming from a cultural hub?
At a recent concert, City Manager Maurice Jones praised the Municipal Band for helping to breathe life into the Downtown Mall.
Congratulations, Charlottesville! You have shot yourself in the foot.
Mark R. Buckner
Greene County

Bad News for the band…..

Anyone who reads the local newspaper knows that both the City and County are wrestling with their budgets.   There are numerous legitimate calls upon these budgets and only a certain amount of tax income to draw upon.

This spring, the Municipal Band was 100 percent defunded, as the expression goes, by the City of Charlottesville and will not receive financial support from the City in fiscal year 2016 – 2017 – a loss of $55,000 in operating expenses.   Albemarle County’s proposed  budget currently maintains its support.

Several years ago, the City and County set up a commission, called the “ABRT,” to evaluate various budget requests against evolving priorities and to pass along recommendations to the governing bodies for action.  The Municipal Band, which has been supported by local government for the past 93 years, was evaluated for financial support along with very different kinds of organizations.  In line with Council priorities, many of the groups receiving funding can be described as social services, groups which focus on the needs of young people in an urban setting as well as the needs of others whose circumstance merit assistance of one kind or another.

While the City makes a distinction between social services and cultural services, the Municipal Band was evaluated not as an arts organization but as a social service. The band and its ensembles brings the gift of music, free of charge, to city and county audiences totaling more than 12,000 attendees annually, and consequently does not compete for funds on an equal basis with other organizations.  Our case was considered “weak” by the ABRT because we were evaluated not as an arts organization but as one of a number of social services.  As a result, the ABRT recommended total defunding, which the City of Charlottesville has accepted.   What we have is a comparison of apples and oranges.

Most people who know us would rank us as very strong as a musical organization and as a contributor to the quality of life in our community.  Yet we understand that the City Council must serve its constituents as best it can.  Those who will be receiving funding certainly merit it.

The task facing the Municipal Band is to sustain our mission without the budget support from the City we have enjoyed in previous years.  Indeed, members of our community and those who attend our concerts will have to step up and provide the funding that no longer comes from public sources.

We do our part through more than 14,000 volunteer hours annually in presenting as many as 50 performances, including the Piedmont Community College graduation and the July 4th Naturalization ceremony at Monticello, six summer concerts, 3 seasonal concerts and dozens of programs.

Our first step will be to reduce our operating costs which consists largely of rental fees for performance venues.  This has required us to vacate the Paramount Theater, our home for the past eight summer seasons, for Western Albemarle High School and Martin Luther King Performing Arts Center.  Performing in these venues, which have free parking, easy drop-off access and larger seating capacities, will reduce our expenditures by more than $18,000.00.

The Band would like to thank the City of Charlottesville for its financial support for the past 93 years.  If our audience values us for what we are, then we can hope that support will be forthcoming. The challenge now is to make certain that the citizens of Charlottesville and Albemarle County join us in accepting the responsibility for keeping the music alive.  We thank you for your past support and look to you for continuing support in the future.

James W. Simmons 1929 – 2016

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our Director Emeritus James W. Simmons on Wednesday, March 23, after a brave and determined battle with cancer. Jim served as the band’s sixth Music Director from 1980 to 2007. With his passing, we have all lost a great friend and one of our community’s most devoted advocates and ambassadors of music education and appreciation. His obituary is available here: http://www.dailyprogress.com/obituaries/  The band will dedicate its ninety-fourth concert season to the memory of his seventy year association with the band which included his performing as principal clarinetist, three terms as board president and twenty-six years as music director.Simmons_Photo - big

Let’s form a Band

On this date in 1922, UVA President Edwin Alderman successfully lobbied the General Assembly NOT to relocated the medical school to Richmond. Upon his return to Charlottesville, city fathers lamented the fact that there was no band to greet him upon his return. This led to the formation of the Charlottesville Municipal Band.Edwin Alderman