Former Teacher Helps Fund ELHS Marching Band Purchase

Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 7:42 pm
Rebecca J. McAndrews

The East Lansing High School (ELHS) Marching Band will be marching in this Friday’s homecoming parade with some shiny new gear, thanks to a substantial donor in the East Lansing community. 

Up until the 2014-2015 school year, students who participated in the band as sousaphone players were relegated to use old, outdated equipment, which was consistently in need of repair due to the sensitivity of the instrument’s “neck”. ELHS owned six sousaphones, two of which were original to the ELHS building, and all of which were approximately 60 years old. 

A sousaphone, in contrast to its “cousin” the tuba (meant to played while sitting), wraps around the body to redistribute the 15-20 pounds of weight the musician carries during a performance. While most students in middle and high school bands provide their own instruments for practice and performance, young musicians playing larger, more costly instruments such as the tuba, bassoon, or French horn rely heavily on the school’s inventory.

When ELHS Band Instructor David Larzelere originally approached the school board to fund the purchase of new instruments, the initial $30,000 price tag seemed insurmountable and the board rejected the bid. Larzelere was excited to later discover, however, that Meridian Winds of Okemos just “happened to have six matching sousaphones” of excess inventory in stock and was willing to work with ELHS on procuring the funds for the needed instruments. 

Due to new school district reconfigurations in 2014-2015, roughly 80 now-unused, salvaged ELHS instruments covered $4,000 of the updated $12,000 sousaphone bid. The school board approved a motion to cover a third of the instruments’ acquisition. Finally, former Marble Elementary School teacher and ELPS Director of Educational Services, Melody Glick, generously donated $4,000 through her family’s foundation to make the purchase a reality.

Glick and her brother, Rodney Ellis, first established the Emil and Doris Ellis Memorial Foundation with the purpose of honoring their parents and to help further musical education.  An alto saxophone player herself, Glick indicates music was always a large part of her life as a child and into adulthood.  Her parents met in the Music Department at MSU, her father was employed as a band director, and both she and her children enjoyed participating in band. 

Glick notes she had hoped to assist in the purchase of new sousaphones for quite some time; something she pursued with the former ELHS band director, prior even to Larzelere’s employment.  She indicates she attended a local invitational band performance several years ago and noticed the run-down condition of the ELHS sousaphones in comparison to the instruments of many smaller schools in the area.  Glick chuckles when she admits she decided then “if it’s the last thing I do in life, ELHS will have matching sousaphones!”

Larzelere and the 100 members of the ELHS Marching Band’s upcoming performance is scheduled to march on Friday, September 19, 2014 in the ELHS Homecoming Parade, beginning at 5:30pm. The new sousaphones will also be featured in the MSU Homecoming Parade on Friday, September 26, at the Grand Ledge Marching Band Exhibition, as well as regularly scheduled football game performances and events throughout the school year.  

Disclosure: Rebecca J. McAndrews has two children who attend East Lansing Public Schools and is a substitute teacher for the district.  

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