Woodland High School spent $60,000 to outfit its 220-member band with new uniforms to replace the uniforms band members had sported since the school opened in 1997. The band program and its boosters funded the purchase through an Adopt-a-Uniform fundraiser and annual fundraisers such as its citrus sale and "Rock-a-thon" sponsorship program.
"It was a huge boost," band director Eric Willoughby said of the new uniforms. "It was my second year here, and it gave us a chance to establish and refine some of the approaches kids have to the way they perform, the way they care for their instruments and particularly their uniforms. It wasn't that they were inappropriate, but I felt like there were some new standards I wanted to set about how they take care of their uniforms, and having a brand-new uniform made it very convenient for me to set new standards, new expectations, and put a new face on the program.
"You look better, you kind of approach it with a more prideful attitude, and that translates to a better performance from the whole group," Willoughby added.
The new uniforms, now in their second season of use, also will benefit the band program financially, as they can be machine washed instead of dry cleaned like the previous 100-percent wool outfits.
"That became a cost-prohibitive issue for us, especially with so many kids, and we had grown beyond how many uniforms we had," Willoughby said. "We had to decide to put $5,000 into buying replacement uniforms for the stock we had of uniforms that were 12 years old, or put that towards new uniforms.
"They still, from a distance, looked appropriate and they looked clean," he added. "The big thing for us was not that the style was not good -- we were looking for a change, I had been here for a year, and a change of style was an exciting possibility, but really it all came down to why would we spend several thousand dollars to add onto a 12-year-old uniform style, because we would just end up having to continue to replace those, so that's why we decided to go ahead and move to a new uniform that was machine washable so we could save that money annually, and we felt like the investment in the first five or six years of these machine-washable uniforms, just the money saved in dry cleaning was going to make a big difference for us."
Once Woodland had the new uniforms, band officials sent out feelers to determine if anyone in the state desired the old uniforms. That is what led to Grovetown connecting with the Cartersville school.
"From what I remember, I got a call or an e-mail from one of the people at the county level in our district who said they had heard something from one of the publications that they were privy to, that said there was a school who had band uniforms that were available, that they were looking to give them to a group that needed them," Grovetown High Band Director Brian Toney said, adding that his discussions with Woodland came at a time when he was still building the program at the new school, now in its second year of operation.
Grovetown band members last year marched in short-sleeve coveralls in their school colors as they performed under the theme "Everyday Heroes," a salute to working members of the military, law enforcement, paramedics and other areas.
"It was a nice effect, but that wasn't going to be appropriate for what we wanted to do in the future," Toney said. "We were just at a point where there wasn't any money. We were trying to figure out what we were going to do for uniforms last year.
"So we were really excited to get these, and we're sure thankful to Woodland High School and their band organization under Mr. Willoughby's leadership," he added.
Though Grovetown band members have performed in the pants of the former Woodland uniforms, they will not suit up in the full uniforms until their Sept. 17 game.
Toney said the uniforms will be a good fit for the school, and will be a sense of pride for the 115 students marching this year.
"Our school colors are navy blue, silver and red," he said, "and those uniforms are red, white and blue, and it's going to fit really nicely to our school this year, possibly a little bit longer until we have the funds to purchase new uniforms.
"I think it helps morale a good deal," he added. "Last year, because it did go along with the theme, the kids went along with the uniforms we had really well, those coveralls, and they understood and were excited about the concept of honoring those who often get overlooked or don't get enough attention. But when we talked about preparing for the next year's show, it was clear that the students were excited about getting into those uniforms. Even though they weren't brand new, they were excited about getting into a band uniform so they could have that as part of the organization, just the overall effect."
Though Grovetown received the uniforms at no cost, the school's boosters gave the Woodland program a $1,500 donation as a thank-you for the donated duds.
While the Grovetown performers continue their season, Woodland band members also will be busy this year. On Thursday, they will be performing at the Georgia Dome with the marching bands of Shorter and Georgia State universities during halftime at the football game between the two colleges.
"Right now, it's the most exciting thing for them about the whole season," Willoughby said. "Playing at our football games and our competitions is always something they look forward to, but this is a really special situation that probably will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them and for our program."
Woodland's Wind Symphony will take center stage at another event in the state when they perform at the 2011 Georgia Music Educators Association in-service conference in Savannah. The band is one of three high school, three middle school and two college bands from across Georgia that were selected to perform out of more than 50 that auditioned for the eight spots.
Also later this school year, the marching band will venture outside the state in April when they travel to Washington, D.C., to perform at the 2011 Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.