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Small space, Big talent

In the Tyler Junior College band hall, it is not uncommon to find wind instrument players attempting to practice over the thunderous sound of the drum line, or to see the Apache Belles hauling boxes down a steep ladder.

This is, according to both organizations, nothing new. Although the band and Belles continue to grow, their facilities have not, resulting in a claustrophobic environment.

“It is hard to keep a professional atmosphere with so much going on in such a small space,” said Ruth Flynn, the Belles’ director. “It definitely affects our recruiting that there is loud music coming from the other room, and it is just as hard to plan events with people over the phone.”

The problems for the Belles don’t end there. Jasilyn Schaefer, the Belles’ administrative assistant, has an office that is a converted costume closet, and the Belle storage space is even more alarming. The storage includes costumes, props and equipment and is located above a steep ladder in an attic located in the band hall itself.

“We often haul some pretty large boxes down this ladder, so it’s obviously a hazard,” said Schaefer.

After getting the boxes down, they must often carry them directly through a cluttered TJC band rehearsal.

The directors of the Belles are not only thinking about their own organization, but also their neighbors in the band. The two groups are located so close together their success is often intertwined.

“When the band does well, we do well, and so I think that in order for us both to grow we need our own space,” Schaefer said. “We are understanding because it’s hard for all organizations right now as budget constraints go, but some of the TJC criteria perplex us.”

She is referring to the TJC three promises: a quality education, a vibrant student life and community service. This is the criterion that the Student Services Fee Advisory Committee used to explain to the drum line that they would get no funds from TJC this semester. According to the members of the drum-line, this could not be further from the truth.

“We received personal invitations to Belgium and France to play with some of the greatest drum lines in the world, and we recently won an indoor drum-line event, so it’s hard for me to believe we don’t meet the criteria,” said drum-line member Jared Autrey.

“They say we are not fulfilling all the TJC promises, but they are not fulfilling their promise of a quality education…we are having to pay out of our pocket to go to Europe and have this experience, which will end in growth as musicians.”

Band member Jobby Baza echoed those sentiments.

“Europe is an opportunity for growth for the drum line, and the fact they don’t have sufficient funding for it is an example of the larger problem of underfunding that is keeping all of us from becoming better,” said Baza.

“The band began as a 60-person group who practiced in a 60-person room, and now it has grown to 220 band members, but we have not had a change in space.”

This clutter is easily visible to anyone who spends time in the band hall. Teachers must use their offices to double as practice space, and usually someone practicing one instrument must play in the same room with someone who plays another.

Baza, who went to high school in Lindale, said, “the Lindale Junior High has a practice space at least as big as this, and the high school space is maybe three times bigger. How can we grow when it is difficult to practice alone or just with others who play your instrument?”

The TJC Board of Trustees has plans for a new band hall around 2011 that will give both the Belles and the band adequate space, but until then both groups must find a way to cope.

“We have been dealing with this for a long time, and we try our best to deal because we know it’s hard for all organizations to meet their budget,” said Schaefer. “Still though, it is hard to adapt to growth and change in this environment.”

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