OHS band gets new uniforms for first time in 25 years

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com

More than $30,000 will go to Stanbury Uniforms and Midwest Band Accessories to re-outfit the Oberlin High marching band this fall.

The lining of current Phoenix jackets are worn through and falling apart after 25 years of use. Pants and hats have outlasted their intended decade of wear, said band director Len Gnizak.

“These aren’t throw-away uniforms,” he said of the new threads, which he intends to make last another couple of decades.

The Phoenix band plans to debut its new uniforms sometime in October under the Friday night lights.

While they’ll largely stick to the style Oberlin has adopted for decades, the pants will be a darker “moody” blue, the jackets will bear a red O, and there will be more red on the sleeves.

The band fields about 50 kids each year and Gnizak is ordering 70 uniforms with the blessing of the Oberlin board of education. Both the band boosters and school endowment fund helped finance the purchase.

Rosa Gadsden, who sits on the school board, said uniforms have been carefully dry-cleaned, stitched, and mended over the years to keep them in decent shape as long as possible.

Each new uniform costs $450.

Gnizak said re-using the current hat plumes will save $1,500 and musicians buy their own shoes.

Everything else will be brand new, including raincoats. Band members have been wearing the current coats since the Oberlin Indians days, covering an Indian mascot with a Phoenix sticker.

The high school band is always looking for donations to further offset the purchase cost. Some parents have called asking if they could sponsor the purchase of certain uniforms themselves, Gnizak said.

To pitch in, call 440-776-4528.

Here’s a neat idea the OHS band plans to make a reality: Old uniforms will be sent to a company to be turned into pillows, which can be sold to fans as a fundraiser.

Now the big challenge will be keeping instruments, which average about 50 years old, in working order. Some are so well-used that the metal has softened and warps or chips at the slightest impact.

Gnizak has written plenty of endowment grants over the years to buy beginner instruments for fifth- and sixth-graders, he said.

But OHS, there are shelved bassoons, for example, that no one can use and it would cost thousands of dollars to fix them. A new sousaphone costs $8,000. Replacing a tympani head costs $250. And each year, the band spends a few hundred dollars to buy new drumsticks alone.

There’s no million-dollar levy to buy new instruments. The band limps along as best it can, trying to be a good steward of its budget, said Gnizak, who has fixed much of the musical equipment himself.

“We’re holding things together with bubblegum and tape, basically. Anything we can do to rebuild some of these old instruments, that would be a huge help for us,” he said.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk