Unionville High band to play at BCS title game

Five-day trip approved by Board of Education means halftime performance, chance to compete on national stage

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH — Unionville is going to the Bowl Championship Series championship game in New Orleans!

Before you find yourself showering your screen with coffee or some other beverage, no it’s not because every major Division I college football program is now on probation — in fact, coach Pat Clark’s gridders will be well into their winter offseason — it’s the marching band from Unionville High School that will be performing at halftime with a dozen other high school bands during the January championship game.

But like the drama of which universities are selected for the game — and why — the Unionville trip proved a bit controversial for some board of education members during last week’s meeting, concerned both about the cost of the trip as well as the academic impact of days away from school just after the holiday break at the end of the year — and because the request came in late and could not be vetted through the traditional process, including board subcommittees.

Members Eileen Bushelow and Holly Manzone expressed concerns about the impact and cost of the trip.

“I’m having a hard time supporting this,” Bushelow said. “And it didn’t come in the way it should come in.”

Band director Scott Litzenberg, who could not attend the meeting, sent apologies for the late submission, which came because of the late nature of the invitation from the BCS organizers. He asked for expedited approval because the band and the band members would need the extra time in the summer to raise money to pay for the trip, estimated at about $1,100 per student for the five-day trip. Waiting until August, he said, would mean that Unionville would have to decline and find another trip — which would be the first for the marching band in three years.

In addition to the halftime performance, Unionville will compete in a band competition with the other high school bands with the winner doing a solo band show prior to the start of the game. Four years ago, Unionville garnered a similar invite to the Gator Bowl, where it won the band competition.

Manzone said she was worried that the cost of the trip would exclude some students from being able to attend, which could hurt the band’s ability to compete — and that some students might feel pressure to pay for a trip their families can’t really afford.

“Kids are encouraged that all must attend,” Manzone said. “When you’re going on an extended trip, you can’t be sure that every child can attend.”

Member Jeff Leiser, who served as a chaperone on the Gator Bowl trip, suggested his colleagues shouldn’t underestimate the value of the trip as an educational experience.

“It was the experience of a lifetime,” he said. “The whole band just joined together — it was just of tremendous value to the participants.”

Other board members, including board president Timotha Trigg and Jeff Hellrun expressed concerns about the lack of opportunity for parent input on the trip, but the band’s booster organization — the parents — strongly supported the trip.

In the end, the board voted 6-2, with Bushelow and Manzone dissenting, to allow the trip.

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