The Marching Band took to the field Friday night for the school's football game against in brand-new uniforms. Band director Steve Panoff said the kids were excited and the uniforms looked stunning.
Despite the excitement over the new uniforms, a cloud hung over Panoff’s head: a $15,000 cloud. That's the remaining balance owed on the uniforms. A balance the band is working hard to pay off.
The total cost for the 225 uniforms was $72,000 dollars, an amount left solely up to the band members and the parent booster organization to raise.
But according to Panoff, the uniforms were a desperate need, not a luxury.
“We’ve needed new uniforms for three years due to the growth of the program. Generally there is a 10-year lifespan on a uniform; we are already at 11. Throw in post-season performances and it's closer to 13-14 years,” Panoff said.
The eight-time Virginia Honor Band has been performing since the school opened in 2000. In the 11-year history, the band has established itself as one of the top all-around band programs in the state. It has won awards in Concert Band, Jazz Band, Percussion, Color guard and Marching Band. It has also played at the Music For All National Concert festival twice and Carnegie Hall once.
The award-winning band, which is one of the largest in Virginia, began a fundraising campaign last year to raise the nearly $100,000 dollars.
Panoff said the parent booster organization had been saving money for the past 4-5 years and was able to contribute a substantial amount toward the cost of the uniforms. But they were still short about $40,000.
That is when Panoff, his fundraising committee and the booster organization came up with fundraising ideas.
Each family member of the band was given the chance to make the $325 donation to buy one uniform. Panoff called it the Legacy Donation Campaign. He said the name of the donor would be put inside the uniform and be known for the next 10 years of use.
In a meeting last April, Panoff kicked off the fundraising campaign by buying one uniform with his own money. principal Tim Thomas committed $10,000 dollars to the campaign from the school budget. The band also began a letter-writing campaign and each of the members sent out five letters asking family to give whatever they could.
“The letters were addressed to grandparents, uncles, aunts and family members all over the country,” Panoff said.
Panoff also came up with an idea to make the old uniforms into commemorative pillows after a visit to his stepson at Virginia Tech.
“His roommate had a pillow made from his old marching band uniform. So I borrowed it and took it to one of our parents, Donna Drzmiecki, who is an incredible seamstress and she made a pillow out of it,” Panoff said.
He said they’ve raised between two and three thousand dollars from the pillows.
Other fundraising events have included two separate car washes and spirit nights at local restaurants where a percentage of the profits goes to the band. But they are still short and Panoff hopes the final amount will come from the community.
The Westfield High School Band Booster Organization took out a loan to cover the remaining balance so the marching band could wear the uniforms on Friday. Panoff said that $15,000 is all that is left of the balance. He said the goal is to get that loan paid off as soon as possible to get the organization out of debt.
“We’ve appreciated all the help we’ve received. We really hope to get more corporate sponsors, but anything anyone can contribute would be greatly appreciated,” said Panoff.
For more information on how you can help, contact Steve Panoff (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Westfield High School. All donations are tax-deductable.