Two wireless microphones aren’t going to take you far in today’s world of high school musical performances.
But those two mics compose East Aurora High School’s “sound system,” if you could describe it as that.
That’s why school officials, parents and students are trying to change that.
It’s a tall order. Though the district doesn’t have a solid idea of how much it would truly cost to have a sound system that would enhance its school musicals, pops concerts, graduation, National Honor Society inductions and other events, it’s guessing it could cost around $135,000. One informal bid came in at that level out of six potential providers whom the district spoke with.
“It’s very important to give the kids the opportunity to explore 21st century technology and to enhance the wonderful things that are going on in our music program,” said Paul Blackwell, the middle and high schools choral teacher and general music teacher.
So far, a grass-roots effort in the community has raised about $12,000 since June – through a spaghetti dinner, private donations and a poinsettia sale. “So, we have a long way to go,” High School Principal Jay Hoagland said. “For our general purposes, the system is fine. But it isn’t very good for our musicals or pops concerts.”
The effort is not short on will, nor determination.
“Our parents’ goal is to continue to raise money for a long-term project that can last a long time and serve a lot of different choral and instrumental groups,” Blackwell said.
One resident, Frieda Whitney, recently donated $5,000 to the cause. She has two grandchildren in East Aurora Middle School and hopes that by the time they get to the high school, they’ll have a new sound system.
Then there is Elisabeth Engle, a senior, whom Blackwell has praised for organizing a Broadway weekend in October at Firefly Cupcakes. The event generated about $153.
“There’s a student who raised all that money and coordinated the effort for a sound system that she’ll never use,” Blackwell said of Engle.
When the district performs its high school musicals, it has to rent a sound system, which can easily cost more than $5,000 a year for various events.
The need is great. For example, the musical could use about 20 wireless microphones and additional lines for special effects. With this year’s “Into The Woods” production, lines are needed to help create the sound of trees crashing and giants stumbling. The musical, to be presented Feb. 8-10, involves more than 100 students.
“We’d like to continue raising money and maybe buy so many wireless mics at a time and do it piecemeal – or make it part of a capital project,” Blackwell said. “Otherwise, it would be a lengthy wait.”
Superintendent Brian D. Russ doesn’t want to see that happen if there’s a way for the district to help. “We know it will be a significant investment, and I hope the district can help,” he said.
“It’s not a great time to be out raising money, but we’re cautiously optimistic that we can raise money and make it happen in the next few years,” Hoagland said.