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Deep cut in community band funds may stop the music

October 27, 2010
Times are tough and sacrifices have been made across the board when it comes to town spending, but a 50 percent cut in the Gilford Community Band's budget may mean no music next season.

Band Director Lyvie Beyrent said as of right now, if funding is cut in half, there will be no band this summer because of the short notice.

Beyrent has been an active Gilford band member and musician since 1996, assistant director from 2004-5, and director from then on.

The current assistant director, A.J. Coppola just recently graduated from Ithaca College.

Although the band's business manager, Don Chesebrough, was not funded in the budget even prior to cuts, he told Beyrent that he would be hard pressed to stay in his position under such circumstances.

Chesebrough said with a proposed $750 budget versus the requested $1,500, Beyrent would lose her $900 pay over the concert season, at about $35 per session, and feared that no other quality director would step in for a fraction of that pay.

"Her work involves a lot of extra volunteering other than the paid sessions. For her caliber of expertise, she is worth much more," said Chesebrough. "She has done a marvelous job putting the band back together. A lot of members are also pros or semi pro musicians."

He said it's at the point where either the band gets full funding, or they must forfeit.

"We weren't aware of any problems beforehand," said Chesebrough. "We started at $1,000 30 years ago, and when that wasn't enough we were given $500 more. That's a pretty small increase over 30 years. We are very frugal with our spending."

Chesebrough said because Beyrent is also the Gilford High School band director, the band is subsidized by the school and does not have to worry about insurance costs or a place to rehearse. They are required to pay a student technician $25 per session for help with lights in the auditorium.

Because of connections to the school, the band also has access to music stands and fixed type instruments such as percussion instruments and the tuba in the GHS practice room. If Beyrent is no longer director, Chesebrough said he feared that the band would no longer receive financial support from the School District either.

Member numbers could potentially also go down, since Beyrent recruits some of her best students to play in the band during the summer season.

"We are holding the budget as low as we can, but if it is cut, we will be put out of business," said Chesebrough. "We have certain fixed expenses. If we don't have them, we no longer have a band."

He said some people have suggested going to outside agencies for help or depending on donations, but Chesebrough said the community band would no longer be a band of the community or the Town of Gilford, and that donations aren't guaranteed and can't be relied on.

He described the band concerts as a place for not only quality musicians to gather and play, but for families to gather at no cost, a concern of Beyrent's as well.

"I feel it's tough because in our economic times, it is hard for families to go out for fun or to spend money at the movies," said Beyrent.

Beyrent said she was just notified of the $750 cut in a $1,500 budget last week, and while she is still trying to find ways to keep the summer season going next year, it may pose quite the challenge.

"Members are all volunteers on the band. They create the programs, stuff folders, and one member maintains the Web site. There's a lot of volunteerism all season," said Beyrent. "We have 51 members. That's a higher number than it's ever been. They are from Gilford and all over the Lakes Region."

Beyrent said she believes that the regionalization of the band also helps to bring more families to Gilford in the summer, which indefinitely helps the economy when families stay in the area to shop and go out to eat.

"A lot of kids and parents play with the group. It's really great family entertainment, and a lot of people come," said Beyrent.

A lack of funds may mean that the band's traditional performance on Old Home Day would be nixed as well, even though the trailer and all man hours are donated and volunteered.

A majority of the requested funds cover three or four new songs a year, at $75-$100 a tune, and the rest of the $1,500 goes to Beyrent and Coppola's stipends. The assistant's stipend is miniscule, Beyrent said, and if calculated out, she would make under minimum wage even when fully funded.

"It's a small scale, but I understand there were cuts everywhere in town," said Beyrent.

Beyrent said she and Chesebrough have considered a few ways to make sure the show goes on if the band is not fully funded, but there still seem to be road blocks in the way.

"One option was reducing the amount of concerts, but that gets tough because we have six rehearsals before concerts start. It would be harder to start later in the year, just in order to provide less concerts," said Beyrent. "We also thought about charging such as other organizations, although charging may change our non-profit status and we wouldn't be able to rehearse in a free facility anymore."

Beyrent said the band still plans on holding their annual Christmas concert at the conclusion of their 2010 season.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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