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Parents ask hard questions of FHS band director at Tuesday meeting


A room full of band parents asked some tough questions of Farmington High School band director Elliot Naes about the school’s future participation in marching tournaments. After more than 90 minutes, the superintendent and school board president said the final decision would be made by the board and in the best interest of the students. Dan Schunks

A meeting of Farmington High School Marching Band parents — also attended by band alumni, school administrators and community members — was held Tuesday night in the school’s band room to discuss comments reportedly made by band director Elliot Naes during band practice on Monday, as well as comments made to band directors at other St. Francois County high schools, regarding the high school’s future involvement in marching band tournaments.

The occasionally contentious meeting, which lasted more than 90 minutes, brought out a roomful of upset parents who voiced their concerns about what they believed was Naes’ intention to end the school band’s participation in field marching.

Director Naes has said he believes that his band students are at a disadvantage because they do not use electronics and, because of this, suffer in the ratings they receive at competitions. Because he doesn’t want to use electronics and sound systems, Naes is reportedly investigating the alternative of competitive parade marching.

Competitive marching in St. Francois County began around 1974, with North County and Central being the first schools participating. Farmington began competitive style marching in the fall of 1976 with the hiring of an assistant director, who was tasked with directing the marching band and jazz band. Over the next 30+ years, Farmington’s band grew in size, reputation, and success. By the fall of 1982, Kurt Bauche and Linda Huck had become directors of Farmington bands, positions they would hold until they retired.

In the past 10 years, the use of props and sound equipment has increased, and larger schools, particularly in metropolitan areas, have invested in this. In most marching competitions, schools are divided by the school’s football classification as determined by MSHSAA.  Farmington, this year, competes in Class 5 in football. Therefore, the band competes in Class 5 in marching competitions. Aside from a bass guitar and keyboard in the front performing ensemble, Farmington does not use electronic sound systems or other devices. Many of the bands Farmington competes against, however, do.

At the top of the meeting, Farmington High School Athletic Director Chad Mills attempted to calm the nerves of parents who believed the decision to end participation in marching competitions had already been made.

“I just want to tell you early on here just to ease your minds about something because a lot of you are going to have a lot of questions probably,” he said. “There’s been no changes made to anything today. So, if you’re sitting here and you’re thinking, they’ve made all these changes that are horrible, or changes have been made in this department in the last whatever days. There have been no changes made. So, I’m starting with that. We’re going to have a good meeting, be productive. There’s going to be some answers that will be made here.”

Addressing the parents, Naes said, “There’s a lot of misinformation going around on the internet, there’s a lot of great things going on on the internet, there’s a lot of bad things. But anyway, I am researching through some, I’m just kind of looking around at different ideas for what we can do to make the marching band a more educational experience and a better experience for our kids. And I think we would all agree the way it is right now is good.

“The way it is right now is totally an educational experience, and there are so many great things about what we do. And all I’m doing at this point is I’m just investigating if there are any ways that we can do things to make it an even better process for, or an even better thing for our kids to experience and to be a part of.

Addressing rumors he said were not at all true, Naes said, “I saw things going around saying that the school district is defunding the band or whatever. That is totally not the case. I have an awesome budget compared to our other MAAA schools. I feel super well-supported in that regard. We’re able to buy the instruments that we need to keep everything up to date, and we have a plan on how to do that and make sure we use our budget well and wisely.

“We have enough money to buy the music that we need for different concerts and things and repair what we need. So that is not happening, and that is not a concern. Again, I know that there are a lot of questions about different things, and so, instead of just necessarily sharing with all of you my ideas, I want to give you guys a chance to ask questions about what you’re thinking, seeing, hearing or thinking about.”

The first parent to make a comment said, “I’m proud to call you our band director. You do great things for these children, but I am very much against changing it, and I think you see a lot of people are. And I don’t know how much of it is just exploring when we go through Central, and their band directors say, ‘Well, this is your last year here, we hear this is your last year. And that seems like it’s, that seems like it’s a bad idea.”

Note: The Daily Journal received a phone call from Central High School Band Director Matt Filer on Thursday, Oct. 6, denying that he or his staff have made comments to anyone about the Farmington High School band program regarding its future participation or non-participation in competitions. He added that the Central High School Band is “completely neutral” about any decisions the school district makes regarding the Farmington High School Band program. – Editor

Naes replied, “Okay, yeah, so, and what I’m looking at is, you know, the way the trajectory of marching band, both since Emily has been in the program and since people in the past have been in the program, has gone a lot more towards the use of electronics, gone a lot more towards ballet and dance elements of putting on a show. It’s not necessarily about the music and the drilling more. It’s all about all the other visual elements, and it’s also about a lot of the props that are happening. Now, I have resisted those things because, at the end of the day, I don’t think that’s what’s best for our kids.

“And there’s even some music judges that we got feedback from this year who said, ‘Every minute you spend teaching your kids how to do like a silly looking visual thing that’s more modern and more stylistic and common across groups, every minute you spend doing that is one less minute that you spend working on scales or notes or rhythms or articulation and the things that matter more.’ And so again, I’m just looking at, okay, if those are the things that I dislike the most and that I find are the least educational about marching band, which again, we haven’t done those things, what are some other things that don’t include those things that we could look into doing? And one of those things was parade marching.

Naes reminded the parents that they had seen the band marching down the street at Farmington Country Days, the homecoming parade and the Christmas parade.

“And, generally, what we do with that is any of the kids in the past will tell you is we kind of pass out the tune a week or two before, and we go out once or twice, and then we’re down the street performing in the parade,” he said. “And it’s always been relatively just, hey, let’s do this because this event is coming up, so we can spend more time focusing on other things. And so what I’m looking at is a model where maybe we, instead of doing only field competitions like we’ve done in the past, that we do some parade competitions in addition to field.”

A parent said it was hard for them to believe that Naes was only “exploring” when other schools have telling them for the past year that this was the band director’s intention.

Naes replied, “That is not the truth.”

The parent asked, “So, they will be at Central next year, then?”

Naes said, “I’m exploring opportunities, and I would like to say that we’ll go to Central, and we’ll go to Potosi. Again, I’m not trying to blow up the ship because I know I’m only a small part of it.

“I’ve been here for 12 years, and I intend on being her for another 18, so I’m not going to do anything that jeopardizes what’s going on. I’m not going to light the ship on fire and then jump off, you know?”

Potosi’s Bi-State Marching Festival offers a parade competition, but the largest school marching in the parade competition was in class 3 or 4. Most bands that compete in parade competitions are schools with no football. Large class 4-6 schools rarely compete in parades because they also compete in field and competing in both risks overtaxing the band for field competition and makes for a long day. The Rebel Invitational in Park Hills and the Black Knight Marching Invitational in Farmington both had parade competitions in their early days but dropped them for lack of participation.

As the meeting continued, Naes made efforts to appease the concerned parents and continued to assure them that no rash decisions would be made. Several of the parents — some of whom had been band members themselves when in high school — told Naes they felt that participating in marching tournaments was about more than getting top ratings.

Another parent said, “So, I can’t speak for all students, but I know that mine and her close-knit friends have said that they would rather go to a competition in place last every single time than change the program completely. Because it’s about the camaraderie. It’s not about winning or losing to them. And you’ve always said that, too. It’s not about winning. It’s not about losing. A winner loses with pride. So, my question is, why all of a sudden do you want to change it?”

Throughout the rest of the evening, many of the same concerns were repeatedly voiced by the parents. Several stressed that if funds were an issue, the booster club and band parents, in general, would step up to make sure the money was there.

As the meeting was hitting the 90-minute mark, Farmington Superintendent Dr. Kyle Gibbs assured the parents that whatever decision was made regarding the issue, it would not be Naes’ to make alone. Instead, it would “ultimately” be a decision made by the board of education.

Board President Kerry Noble echoed Gibbs in assuring the parents how the decision on participation in marching tournaments would be reached.

“This will be a board decision, but we’re not going to let anything happen that would impact or negate the way toward our children,” he said. “That’s our focus at the board. That’s our priority.”

Kevin R. Jenkins is the editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at


  1. Lee on October 26, 2023 at 9:54 am

    How about writing a story up about the Farmington cheerleaders at competition that was it Lindenwood Oct 8th.Girls work there butts off for competition and for the games. And nothing has ever posted about them.

    • Kevin Jenkins on October 26, 2023 at 10:41 am

      We would love to publish a story about the Farmington cheerleaders at competition! Please ask the cheerleader coach or sponsor to contact me at the Daily Journal or email me at and send me the information and at least one photo. It’ll run it in the paper within a day or two. – Editor Kev

    • Amy on October 30, 2023 at 7:43 am

      Writing about the possible demise of the marching band does not affect the celebration of the cheerleaders’ success.

      As close as possible to a known fact is that successful marching band directors adjust over time as society changes. A Band director, assistants and students put in 8 hour days for at least a month over the summer and for five hours after school. The band director and assistants rewrite and tweak and change the program before completing and after as well. If I were a board member, I would ask surrounding districts how much time they dedicate weekly, on weekends and how they use that time with the assistants and students. Parents make the props. Parents make the food. Parents do fittings for their marching outfit. Parents take over every part of that so the director, assistants, and students can just work. I bet these students are still wearing traditional band uniforms. I also would wager that this director doesn’t want to spend the time, or perhaps doesn’t know how to create a parent group, or how to make that paradigm shift to march with the resources that do not carry the show, but enhance it!

  2. Carl Cline on October 26, 2023 at 7:02 pm

    Having been involved myself in very successful high school band program from many moons ago, I can relate to trying to find ways to give the students a proper music education. So much of our world has become digital, who will remember the actual physical ways the human beings made music. I get where the director is coming from. Through the years I have on occasion helped high school programs and some changes to how field & street (mostly field marching has changed) some change is good some change not. I’m a traditionalist and think electronics should be limited so as not to limit the winds & precision from being featured and very limited ‘props’.

    Let see some self discipline.. let’s some real precision marching!!! Let’s continue to value music programs for what they add to the students academic, social and artistic abilities.

  3. Elizabeth racz-burton on October 27, 2023 at 9:05 am

    I’m a band parent at a school with a very well-known program. This director makes the claim that the electronics and visual part of the shows take away from teaching music. This could not be further from the truth. A program doesn’t have to be overloaded with electronics and props. The music I hear is some of the most difficult I hear in any type of musical display by high-school bands. At our school, it is treated like a sport — class time during the day is only partially used for marching band. They practice the field show three plus days a week after school. They start in the spring and proceed through the summer into the next school year. The kids have to have a sports physical. Sounds to me like this director has gotten old and unwilling to put in the time and effort to lead these kids. Financially too maybe there is a disconnect as choreography costuming prop manufacturing show transportation electronic equipment and providing leadership in the visual aspect of these programs all costs money too. If this is the case, fund raising may be put in place and at least acknowledge this is the issue. Otherwise, he just sounds like a tired old f**t that is petulently kicking his feet about change.

  4. Jon McClain on October 27, 2023 at 3:01 pm

    Things have simply changed. Just because of electronics, it doesn’t inhibit the ability to teach music. My son was in band playing bass guitar. He’s also an accomplished double bass player in the orchestra. He hast understand that this is changing. Marching band isn’t what it was 20 years ago. It’s now a theatrical performance, with a marching band component. Don’t punish the kids because of this man’s tastes.

  5. Sheila H on October 28, 2023 at 1:21 pm

    I have watched many years of high school marching band competitions recently that my grandkids have performed in and I just don’t get it. I don’t see the themes” they say they are portraying. It just seems to be a theatrical performance on a football field. I was in marching band for four years MANY years ago, and our performances were more on the order of what the colleges do.

    • Rick A on October 28, 2023 at 10:33 pm

      I to was a band member in high school years ago and was very successful program. We matched and portrayed our show my our movements, not by back drops and all these props. Call me old fashioned but I would like to see it go back to what it used to be. I am still involved in my local high school band as my kids were in band but have all graduated but still help when ever I can. As I said I am not a fan of the props and electronics but it is what seems to be the trend of today. Hopefully some day it will go back to a marching band show and not a theater show

  6. Kaitlin on October 28, 2023 at 11:22 pm

    I’m a former color guard member. Art has value even when it doesn’t win. Ask the kids what they want and take the ego based need to win out of the equation. These are the future musicians of tomorrow. And those that don’t pursue music professionally will carry with them the values and memories instilled in them from their time competing. Don’t underestimate them. I came from our underfunded theatre department and work professionally in the entertainment industry now. They deserve absolutely every opportunity available to them.

  7. Lc on October 29, 2023 at 11:27 am

    I have been involved as a student and band parent for many years. All the electronics and props are taking away from what kids can actually do on the field.
    Some programs the kids simply march forward & backwards, and do no other marching moves. It is sad.
    The front line “pits” have become larger and larger, and bands spend more time standing around props than marching. And they get rewarded for it.
    I wish we could have field competitions without all the electronics, but it wont hapoen unless the band directors get together and make a change. BOA is turning marching band into drum corp. And theater productions

  8. Fred on October 29, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    The director is making a well informed choice about what direction to take the band program with the full support of his administration. I’m so tired of seeing “as a former band person” “as a this or that,” Just stop. You are not the professional in the room nor do you have any of the real experience to make decisions like this. Glad he’s got a good support system.

    • Wilma on November 3, 2023 at 3:36 pm

      Actually, the director is making choices to essentially make his job easier and require less of a time commitment from him. The reasons he’s composed for wanting this shift makes no logical sense to anyone involved with marching band, unless you’re lazy. Any “support” he has from administration, is there because it will cost the school less money. Parades are MUCH easier, not to mention, if you can even find a parade competition, most don’t even have entries for the size of school Farmington has. Easy to win a competition you don’t have competitors for 🙄. People who have been around BKMB since before this director has been alive, absolutely hold a level knowledge that qualifies them to have an opinion and speak out. Band parents have LOTS of expertise. I’m sorry you obviously haven’t ever been a part of something like that. And considering this comment, safe to assume you didn’t March under Bauche. You have no idea. So please, sit down.

      • Kathryn on November 10, 2023 at 10:48 am

        Thank you, Wilma. You read my mind and saved my blood pressure from skyrocketing while I tried to reply.

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