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Seminole band strives for grace on field, off

Re: Bands hold their heads and instruments high, article, Oct. 6.

As the band director at Seminole High School, I have worked very hard to reach out to the community and change people's perception of our band while, at the same time, maintaining our high standards of performance. No one ever likes an ungracious winner, and as my program continues on its success, we will maintain ourselves as a class act while supporting the efforts of every part of Seminole High School, especially our football team.

I would also like to mention that none of the parents quoted in the Times article are official representatives of the Seminole Band Boosters, so I cannot be responsible for their actions. A comment was made on a statement by one of my students. That student was using a commonly used quote by Rodney Dangerfield: "don't get no respect."

Attitudes at Seminole High School will never improve if people are out to burn everyone at the stake every time something like this happens. My band is very successful and because of that, we have a duty to the rest of our school to be gracious about it in order to keep the level of jealousy we encounter to a minimum.

On the issues raised in the article, all I have to say is that there is an element of truth in everything said. This winter the Seminole Band Boosters will be shelling out just over $40,000 for new band uniforms. Every time we dry-clean our uniforms, it costs approximately $620. Instrument rental fees for the county are $30 a semester, but maintenance and repair on our school-owned instruments average $55 for each repair. Every year I receive about $900 from the school to cover any and all costs, and about $3,500 in new equipment _ which averages about two new instruments a year.

In Pinellas County, many other school bands are not as lucky as we are to have a helpful band booster group or the socioeconomic base to support such an active program. If you do the math from above, you can see that music programs cannot support themselves at all. Without extensive fund raising, a band program cannot even meet its basic needs, which is why our music programs are struggling.

Music is part of the Florida Sunshine State Standards and Goals 2000. It has been deemed an important curricular element in our schools, yet funding for these programs dwindles. At the same time, an article on Seminole's outstanding football victory over Largo had nice coverage in the newspaper. The Seminole wind ensemble was selected as one of the top 15 bands in the nation to participate at the 1997 Bands of America National Concert Band Festival. I'm sure there will be some coverage of that event, but nothing like the coverage a football team gets when it wins the local district title.

This is some of what moved people to say what they did in the article on Sound Spectacular. But my students and at least my band booster officials now know that cutting someone else down is never going to help your own cause. We will continue to demonstrate our excellence in the field of music, to fight for greater funding and recognition, and to support all components of Seminole High School _ and hopefully cheer our football team to the playoffs.

John Davis, director of bands, Seminole High School

Don't destroy landscape to see it

Re: Future looks lush for site of gardens, article, Oct. 24.

Reporter Joe Newman's story contains an oxymoron. " "This is what makes it all worth it,' said (Pinellas County) Commissioner Steve Seibert, knee-deep in palmetto and slash pines. It is 90 acres of green, brimming with trees and crawling with snakes and other critters, at Ulmerton Road and 125th Street south of Largo."

Where do Commissioner Seibert and all the other jump-on-the-bandwagon do-gooders think the flora and fauna will go after nicely landscaped botanical gardens and art center are in place?

Ouoting County Administrator Fred Marquis: "Like anything else, when it becomes limited, you tend to value it more." You may value it more, but not by building a deck, observation walk and trails. That's doing more injury to the natural setting as it is now.

Why do people have to look at what Pinellas County once was? Can't the few remaining bits of land stay as they are? Enough has been damaged by the developers and government officials who gave the okay.

F.H. Barnard, Dunedin

Deny the Phillies' ransom request

The Phillies now say Jack Russell Stadium is old; they may need a new facility if they are to stay in Clearwater.

Speaking out against subsidies to professional sports organizations is close to speaking out against motherhood, but there is a time when it becomes necessary.

It's not the stadium that is old; it's the Phillies' perennial need for more that's old. Through the years, the city has paid the ransom: more seats, new seats, new backstop, new and more batting cages, player VIP parking lot, new player locker rooms. The city even vacated Missouri Avenue to accomplish some of this. What will they ask for next? Sky boxes, air-conditioned dome? There is no end.

A rumored suggested solution to the demands of the Phillies is a new ballpark on the bayfront. What a revolting thought. Let's get real with this issue. Stop paying the ransom!

Lee Regulski, Clearwater

Jazz Fest atmosphere was disappointing

What happened to our Clearwater Jazz Festival? This year's event was horrible.

Our view of the beautiful waterfront was totally blocked by vendors. We had to be searched by the Jazz Fest gestapo, including baby strollers! The entire event was fenced in like a detention camp, and if you wanted a beer or a glass of wine, your only choice was industrial beer or wine of the quality that was unpalatable. When you finally found a place to sit, the view of the performers was shared with a tent to cook for the VIPs up front. I could go on.

Clearwater Jazz Fest is a family event, intended to reflect a good cultural image for Clearwater and our sister city's. It is about showing off our beautiful park, our gorgeous waterfront and unbelievable sunsets. It's about coming and going as you please without being searched.

This event was never intended to be a Woodstock. If I want to go see George Benson or Kenny G or Sade, I will see them at Ruth Eckerd Hall. We don't need to raise more monies to bring these acts to Jazz Fest. Alcohol sales are not the answer to help out this venue because they rob our citizens of their basic rights and of a great time. The Jazz Fest committee should work harder on donations from sponsors and stick to its budget.

Barry Lonas, Clearwater