Jason Owens, the band director at Franklin High School, is considering buying marching uniforms for 450-500 dollars per uniform. For the 80 uniforms he is planning to purchase, the total cost will be around 36,000-40,000 dollars. A silver, white and maroon prototype from Stanbury Uniforms arrived on November 15.
Though the band program has grown in recent years, a good thing for the whole community, this huge purchase is not the right next step for the band. Marching uniforms are a bad investment because the band has not practiced marching recently, some students are unenthusiastic about uniforms, and the band is still in debt from the trip to Disneyland last year. Instead, qualifying for state would give the band the recognition they want. This is a huge amount of money, and shouldn’t be spent on anything that isn’t the best choice for the band.
Jim Pundmann is a regional sales manager at Stanbury Uniforms, one company that the Franklin band program is considering for the uniform purchase. He has worked there for thirty years, so he is very familiar with the process of purchasing uniforms. Pundmann said that the average price is 465-485 dollars per uniform, which is in line with Owens’ estimate for Franklin’s needs. According to Owens, the uniforms from Demoulin, another company being considered, also fall within the range of 450-500 dollars.
In Pundmann’s experience, the price can range from 180 to 1,650 dollars per uniform. This is because of the high level of customization of the marching uniforms Stanbury sells. Pundmann said that each order is “totally different from the order in front of it or the one behind it.” The cost depends on specific requests like color, fabric, design, school logo, and whether customers want a plume on the hat. Prices are not initially available on the website—band directors have to email a consultant in order to get cost estimates.
The high level of customization also means that buying uniforms from Stanbury is a long process. According to Pundmann, it normally takes a whole year to receive the uniforms after first contacting the company. It takes six months for uniforms to be made after details are finalized. He said that uniforms last a minimum of ten years and up to 25. The Franklin band recently received a prototype of the uniform to consider. If they approve it and place the order, there is no possibility of returns or exchanges.
The fact that the process of buying these uniforms takes a whole year and the high cost demonstrate what a long-term investment this is. Any purchase of this scale must first be carefully considered by all parties involved. Owens is very excited about the uniforms, saying, “The marching uniforms are about school spirit and pride. The band will be representing our school at sporting events and parades.”
However, some students in the band are indifferent or even opposed to buying new uniforms. One Franklin senior in Symphonic Band said, “I think it’s a waste of money and I think it’s unnecessary.” They couldn’t think of anyone except for Owens who was in favor of buying uniforms; everyone they talked to was opposed or didn’t have an opinion. A junior in Symphonic Band said, “I don’t think it’s a good plan.” They were nervous about the hefty price tag of uniforms. Another junior in Symphonic Band said, “Most of the people I’ve talked to have seemed hesitant about it since it’s a lot of money.” All students who were interviewed requested to remain anonymous.
This disconnect between Owens and the band is dangerous because of the costly and nonreturnable nature of custom uniforms. Owens is the primary decision maker for the band, but students are the ones with the most at stake since they are the ones who will actually be marching. This means that their hesitancy is a bad sign. If they don’t enjoy the uniforms, up to 75,000 dollars will be wasted.
Sonya Harvey is the Business Manager at FHS. She generally oversees purchases. She said, “Purchases of goods above 10,000 dollars (such as the future purchase of band uniforms) requires us to obtain three written quotations prior to making any decisions.” Also, large purchases must be approved by an admin team made up of Harvey, vice principals, and the principal. This means that Owens does not have complete control over buying uniforms.
Lack of student excitement is only one of the barriers to the success of the marching band. Another is that the band has not practiced marching recently. Two years ago, during the 2017-18 school year, the FHS band practiced marching some during class and marched in the St. Johns Parade in May. According to two students who marched in the parade, they wore maroon FHS band shirts, black pants, and black shoes. They both thought that this worked fine. Then last year, during the 2018-19 school year, the band did not practice marching at all and skipped the St. Johns Parade. According to Owens, it was the same day as the 6A state band festival which the band had hoped to qualify for. They did not march in a single parade last year. So it’s perplexing that this year they would spend tens of thousands of dollars on marching uniforms. A seemingly more sensible course of action would be to focus on marching before making a huge investment in uniforms, although Owens comments, “One of the reasons we don’t march more is because we don’t have official uniforms.”
In order to be part of events within the Portland Rose Festival, like the Grand Floral Parade and Starlight Parade, a band must submit a video of them marching as well as a picture of the band in uniform. The deadline for the application for the 2020 festival is November 22. Jessica Metteer, a special events coordinator for the Rose Festival in charge of bands, said, “The Rose Festival’s band policy requires traditional uniforms for all high school bands in both parades.” Therefore, what was worn at the St. Johns Parade two years ago will not suffice. Metteer said, “If a band has a photo or rendering of the uniforms that they will be wearing on parade day, in lieu of a current band photo, due to a new purchase or donation, that would satisfy the committee’s review requirement.” Owens is planning to submit a picture of the uniform design he is considering from Stanbury Uniforms, which would comply with this.
Owens will submit a video of the band marching two years ago in the St. Johns Parade. “A video that is not from the immediate past season may be submitted. However the committee may inquire with the band director as to why no current footage is available.” The age of the marching video could weaken the application. Also, because the band has advanced so much in the last two years, the marching and playing quality may or may not meet the standards of the committee that reviews band applications.
Franklin High School has two band classes: Concert Band, at an intermediate level and Symphonic Band, at an advanced level. Together, they have a total of 110 students this year. 61 of them, slightly over half, are in Symphonic Band. This means that if 80 uniforms are purchased, everyone in Symphonic Band will get a uniform plus some percussionists from the Drumline class, and potentially some students from Concert Band. Owens plans to purchase more uniforms when he raises additional money. After the initial 80 uniforms, he wants to get 70 more, to outfit all of Concert Band plus have some extras. These additional uniforms will cost around 31,500-35,000 dollars for a total cost of 65,000-75,000 dollars.
Owens said that he currently has enough band funds to buy 80 uniforms. All of this money comes from fundraisers the band has done, including one with a pie company, as well as other donations, especially from alumni. Unfortunately, the band has not paid off the remaining balance from the trip they took to Disneyland last spring. According to Owens, the band still has 7,000 dollars to pay, which isn’t pocket change. This remaining debt is concerning in the context of being in the process of making another huge purchase.
Since Owens became the band director at Franklin three years ago, the program has grown significantly. His first year here, he taught choir in addition to band. Now there is a music teacher, Karen Bohart, dedicated solely to choir. This leaves Owens available to teach both the advanced and intermediate bands, a drumline, a jazz band, music theory, and a strings class. With all these different instrumental music options and two teachers in the music department, it’s evident that the music program has evolved in a positive direction in recent years.
Moving forward, Owens described buying new marching uniforms as, “putting a little more emphasis on our band program here at Franklin.” He said, “We’d start with doing some field shows here for our sporting events. That’d probably be the most important. And then from there, just marching in a couple parades in town.” He seeks to represent Franklin and prove that they’re an esteemed band through this. However, the Symphonic Band can achieve this by qualifying for state. They have already set up the groundwork for it and it won’t require a purchase of upwards of 30,000 dollars.
Along with band concerts on our main stage and pep band for football and basketball games, one of the band’s highest priorities is qualifying for the state competition as a group. Symphonic Band goes to band festivals in the winter and spring to try to qualify. Last year, Franklin sent a small group of clarinets to state, but did not go as a whole band. They were only a few points short. This year, they’re hoping to go as a whole band. The senior in Symphonic Band who was previously quoted said, “I think it would be a big accomplishment because I don’t think Franklin has ever qualified for state in band, unless it was a very long time ago.” In addition to being a special experience for individuals, it would cement this group’s status as an accomplished band.
It would be nice for Franklin to have a marching and pep band representing the community with fancy uniforms, but with much cheaper matching band shirts, they can still play music and show school spirit. When students want higher quality uniforms and have practiced marching, this could be a great investment for the band, but now is not that time.
Photo by Anonymous
Caption: A prototype from one of the companies being considered, Stanbury Uniforms. Owens wants to spend around 36,000-40,000 dollars on 80 marching uniforms.