ARLINGTON – Strike up the brass, woodwinds and percussion.
From the sounds of it, members of the Arlington High School marching band and drumline will be marching to a different tune in new uniforms by next year’s Memorial Day parade.
The AHS Booster Club learned last week they are getting a tuba-sized boost in funding thanks to a $65,000 grant from the Stillaguamish Tribe.
Combined with matching support from Arlington Public Schools and the club’s own rhapsodic fundraising efforts over the past year, the band program will sing so long to uniforms that date back to the age of Grunge music in the early ’90s.
Booster club members and marching band moms Sheri Kelly and Jen Egger said they are ecstatic.
“The tribe recognized the kids have worked hard, and noticed the effort that they really put themselves out there” to raise money, Kelly said.
Egger, who wrote the grant seeking tribal support, said the band has 183 members, or about 12 percent of the high school’s 1,500 students, led by one longtime revered teacher and advisor John Grabowski.
Kelly has twin daughters who play trombone and trumpet in the band, while Egger adds a drummer and trumpeteer.
When Kelly and other booster club members saw two years ago how stretched thin Grabowski was for time and resources, “We looked around and said this has gone on long enough,” Egger said. “We said, ‘You go be a band teacher and we will make this happen.’”
The booster club funds several student activities, most recently in July donating $4,682 for new Cheer Squad uniforms – a drop in the bucket compared to the minimum $106,000 needed to buy new band uniforms, which generally run about $600 each.
Up close, the uniforms are in bad shape, with frayed hemlines, loose fringes, mismatched buttons, ill-fitting suspenders, missing plumes on helmets, and an itchy, musty smell that has musicians eager to undress none too soon after marching, Kelly said. Parents have also gotten creative with duct tape.
From a starting band booster fund balance of $3,200 in May 2017, the club raised another $28,800 in individual donations including $8,000 raised through student car washes and the Swing into Spring silent auction this year, Egger said. Donations also came from the Arlington Education Foundation, Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Arlington Business Association.
Combined with tribe grant and $60,000 from the district, the club has up to $157,000 to spend to order uniforms.
Grabowski is looking at uniform companies, selecting styles and gathering updated cost estimates.
Egger said the fundraising process has been a rewarding learning experience for the musicians.
“We’re showing kids that when they work together towards a goal, they can make things happen,” Egger said.