North Buncombe – They’re old, really old. The North Buncombe High School Band uniforms that is. Black Hawk Band Director Nathan Brown and some of the band boosters are hoping to change the old worn-out look with the purchase of new uniforms.
Brown told the Tribune “So, the uniforms we have now were new for this program about seven or eight years ago, but they were used when we got them,” he explained, “I don’t know the exact age of the uniform, but my best guess is we’re pushing in the upper teens … 17, 18, 19-years-old.” Asking if they are now looking to purchase new ones, Brown confirmed yes indeed. “The hand-me-down stuff can work sometimes, you know. It was before my time here, so I don’t know the full story why we got used uniforms.” This time the school and Brown are working with Stanbury Uniforms, a nationally-known uniform company, to design their own uniform.
This reporter suspects, “because every ‘band judge’ is crazy about a sharp-dressed band.” Pardon as yours truly took the liberty of readjusting some ZZ Top lyrics for driving the point home. A clever paraphrase which is not lost on the band boosters who have dubbed their effort to raise $60,000 for new uniforms, “Every hawk is crazy about a sharp-dressed band.”
The band’s current uniforms are dominantly red. Brown says this crimson will be replaced with more aligned black & white with red accents. A more complete representation of their school colors.
Asked why change now, Brown said, “It’s way past due. I mean, our uniforms, in my best guess, are nearly 20 years old. The standard uniform is only supposed to last 10 years. So we are well past the life of these.”
One should also consider that each year the uniform has to be tailored for the student wearing it. Every time its adjusted, previous alterations remain on the uniform, leading deterioration and a less-than “sharp-dressed” appearance that reflects poorly in competitions and parades. Not only are these uniforms are showing their age, they are also well out of style. Perhaps not in the eyes of most parade or ball game onlookers, but judges in band competitions certainly have to. Winning competitions is a prized achievement. One only has to sit in the school’s band room and scan at all the trophies lining the walls. It’s evident to anyone that winning means a lot to the Black Hawk program.
Alterations are something Sharon Van Dyke knows something about. She’s not only a mother of a band student (Coleman), but also a band booster. Sharon also dealt directly with the uniform alternations. She explained that “I’m on the uniform committee and did a lot of these alterations last year, and these uniforms have been altered and altered and altered again, and seams can only stand so much.”
“From a competitive standpoint, every ten years, this activity kind of reinvents itself a little bit and the uniforms are getting to the point it’s not making us competitive enough anymore,” explains Brown.
He said that the school is looking at purchasing somewhere between 100 and 120 uniforms, each costing somewhere about $400 to $500 apiece. That buys a hat, jacket, and pants or bibs. Each student is responsible for their undershirt, socks and shoes.
Asked what new uniforms would mean for the morale of the band members, Brown said, “I mean, it’s a huge booster. I think any time you change the look of a group, it makes you sit up a little bit straighter. It makes the kids a little bit prouder of what we have. Not to say the kids aren’t proud of what we have now, but I think having something new is going to make them really respect and realize the value of being part of this great group and I think it will be great for the kids.”
Raising the funds
It’s no secret that the pandemic wreaked havoc for group activities like band and fundraising efforts , so the band boosters are starting from nearly zero to raise the money for these uniforms.
The boosters have to raise half of the $60,000 just to place the order. The the other half is due on delivery. When you add in six months for the manufacturing of the uniforms you realize that the efforts from the 2022-2023 class will not realize these new threads for their use but for their lower classmates later on. Brown would not expect delivery of the uniforms to make it before the 2023-2024 season.
The group hopes to raise the first payment by the end of the year or the first of January in 2023. That gives them about six months to raise the other half of the cost while the uniforms are being made.
“We don’t have that down payment, let’s just say,” said GeGe Sinclair, a booster and mom of her incoming freshmen daughter, Ava. “It’s kind of a rebuilding time anyway, from losing COVID numbers.” Brown said the band is about 25% down in membership because of the pandemic. Nonetheless, Sinclair’s daughter got a taste of the high school program this year. She was allowed to march with the high school band.
The platform’s theme is a “sharp-dressed band.” The group launches the drive at the end of May with concert on May 17th. This fundraising drive is looking for donors and sponsors. Boosters are “hitting the fundraising hard during the summer” months and throughout the fall, said Van Dyke. Different tier names for the uniform’s various parts allude to the ZZ Top hit song. Donation tiers have names like: Top Hat ($5,000), Silk Suit ($1,000), and Black Tie ($100). These are just a few of the sponsor levels in the fundraiser. Residents and businesses looking to help should contact the boosters at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Right: North Buncombe High School Band Boosters Shannon Van Dyke (left), GeGe Sinclair and Band Director Nathan Brown are spearheading a fundraising drive for new uniforms and need your help. Photo by Clint Parker.