Earlier this year, Modesto High School's band program was foundering.
The longtime band instructor was placed on administrative leave after his arrest on suspicion of having an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old student. The substitutes who replaced him didn't have adequate musical training.
Worried that the program might fold, Modesto Junior College music instructor Stephen Stroud stepped forward to volunteer his services. He taught the concert band and eventually recruited Modesto bandleader Ernie Bucio to volunteer as jazz band director.
Tonight, the two volunteers will lead the groups in a concert. They will be joined by more volunteer community guest performers, including Gottschalk Music Center owner C.K. Gottschalk and Deck Hogin of the Hogin's Heroes band.
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Miguel Avila, a junior trumpet player, said the students are grateful for the music community's help.
"Before Dr. Stroud came, we weren't doing anything," he said. "It felt like a period we were wasting. Once he came, we started playing more often. Kids started saying, 'We felt like we were a band again.' "
Stroud said he offered his services in response to a request for assistance from Anastasia Legatos-Jacobs, the Modesto High music department chairwoman and a former student. He felt a duty to help the program out of respect for the great music tradition started decades ago at the school by Frank Mancini.
"Modesto High was always the mother ship of music in Modesto," Stroud said.
Principal Hugo Ramos offered him money for his services, but Stroud turned it down.
"Everyone said, 'You should demand to be paid,' but I'm not like that," Stroud said. "I was the one who volunteered. Sometimes, volunteerism is more representative of a genuine contribution than demanding pay for what one does."
Bucio, who works at Gottschalk Music Center, said it is to the community's advantage that the music program succeeds. "If a program suffers, then we all suffer," he said. "That's our business. It's also what we love. It's our passion."
Ramos was not available for comment Wednesday afternoon. Lewis Wilhelm, the band teacher on leave, is in the early stages of his court process and has not had a preliminary hearing. His next court date is June 6. He faces one felony count of annoying or molesting a child.
Modesto High is advertising for a permanent band instructor and hopes to have a replacement by next year, Legatos-Jacobs said.
The Modesto High School concert and jazz bands and color guard perform at 7 p.m. today in the school auditorium, 18 H St. Tickets are $5 per person or $20 per family and include a root beer float. For more information, call 576-4401.
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2313.