DOS PALOS — The May Day Parade is a time to show off, and a note of victory for the Dos Palos marching band.
That’s because the Dos Palos-Oro Loma Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees voted before the start of the school year to do away with the band programs at Dos Palos High and Bryant Middle schools. So, through the effort of residents, the Dos Palos Community Band sprang up. Members of that band will marched Saturday when the parade started at 9 a.m. in Los Banos.
“I’ve been doing this just to keep the band program going,” said Tom Salles, the director of Dos Palos Community Band.
Before Salles got involved, high school and junior high players started getting together on their own to practice for what became the Dos Palos Community Band.
High school marching band is usually an elective where students meet for a daily class during school. But budget cuts, such as the district’s $521 per student fewer estimated in last year’s state budget, have forced many school districts to trim programs seen as non-essential. Waning enrollment in the class and a revolving door of directors made the band program appear to be expendable.
Misael Samanaiego, a trombone player, said the community band meets outside of school.
“Last year, we actually had a class,” the 18-year-old senior said. “Now, it’s just meeting up once a week.”
Andre Hill, a 17-year-old senior, said that can make learning the parts difficult, and the band has fewer competition trips.
Andre said he wasn’t ready to give up, despite the program going without uniforms and working with damaged instruments.
“I do it, because I love music,” the snare drum player said. “I’ve been doing it ever since I was in fourth grade.”
Salles, a fifth-grade teacher, said Dos Palos High has allowed the players to use the band room and instruments. He said local businessman Bob Baeten and wife JoAnn played a big part in the push to reinvigorate the program.
“I know there were other people involved and other people he was talking to,” Salles said, “but from what I’ve heard, Bob was the guy who went out and said, ‘Who do you talk to? How do you get this thing going?’ ”
Baeten, who owns Bob’s Howard Tire in Dos Palos with his wife, is quick to deflect credit but said his location was headquarters for fundraisers, like a car wash and pumpkin patch. Baeten said he has opened his wallet, but declined to say how wide.
“There’s not really life without music, everything is to a beat,” he said. “When you tap your pen, you’re tapping to a beat.”
The story ends with some good news for band aficionados. The school board voted last month to reinstate music at Bryant Middle School when is starts in the fall. However, now Salles and the Baetens are hard-pressed to find hundreds of instruments.
Baeten said the community showed support by donating money and attending school board meetings, and 420 third- through eighth-grade students showed interest by signing up. Organizers are looking for donations of instruments, cases, music stands and any other working or non-working band equipment.
To help or for questions, contact Baeten at his place of business at (209) 392-9100 or Steve Penny at (209) 769-2016. The Los Banos Enterprise office, 907 Sixth St., is also a donation center for instruments.