TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — You hear the music before you see it, as is often the case with marching bands. The distinct bellows of the tubas, the melodies of the flutes and the pounding of the drums float through the air during the Big Red Marching Band’s Thursday afternoon rehearsal before you can spot the glimmer of silver and brass.
But Big Red needs big money.
“Nobody really thinks about the lack of music funding when they think about the lack of funding,” Tanisha Taneja explained during a break in band practice.
When voters rejected the Hillsborough County Public Schools village in August, they also rejected funding for programs like band.
For years the band has been dealing with cracking and breaking drums, dented tubas, rusted trumpets and flutes and a wheelless gong.
“Of all the instruments I saw in Hillsborough,” Taneja said. “There are some instruments where the keys don’t even work.”
Taneja is a senior at Hillsborough High School and has been a drummer for the third year in a row. She is taking it upon herself to raise money for new instruments through her “Make Music Today” initiative.
“Many of our band members play broken or cracked instruments,” Taneja said. “It’s basically an obstacle for them to get to a higher level or to pursue a higher music career.”
Standing on a bench, waving his arms as he directs an ensemble of nearly 100 students, he sees that the brass is brighter on the other side.
“Often when we see other bands with all this fancy equipment and all these resources, it’s a little demotivating,” Taneja said. “But I also think we’re doing the best we can with the resources we have.”
Taneja has already raised more than $5,000 through GoFundMe and has performed at various venues to raise money. She’s giving away $1,000 each to Hillsborough and four other local schools – band director Jonathan Sims couldn’t be more excited.
“To be able to see it come to fruition now, and actually, tomorrow, we have something that she worked to really provide for us, her legacy will be here long after she’s gone,” Sims said. “I think it’s absolutely amazing.”
October 21st is Terrier Senior Night, one of their biggest performances of the year. And they get the wheels on the gong just in time — a small but important step forward.
“We get some money from our district every year, just like every other school in the country,” Sims said. “But at the end of the day, it’s not enough to fund a program of 90.”
Sims arrived in Hillsborough more than three years ago to find the instrument situation patchy.
“Big instruments: tubas, euphoniums, trombones,” Sims said. “They only change once every five, six, sometimes 10 or more years.”
His plan for the extra money raised is to build a percussion section and then go from there.
Like any good leader, Taneja keeps the faith.
“All our students are really motivated, so despite the financial difficulties, I think we’re still going through everything and doing our best,” said Taneja. “Most importantly, I think everyone is having fun.”
If you would like to donate to Taneja’s GoFundMe, you can find link to do it here. You can also follow her initiative and learn more here.