Vandalia, Ill. band director's job cut, school trying to save it

9:40 PM, Mar 26, 2013   |    comments
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By Elizabeth Matthews

VANDALIA, Ill. (KSDK) - It's a real-life version of the movie Mr. Holland's Opus. Kids coming together for a concert to help save the job of their beloved band director whose job is in jeopardy because of state cuts.

Now the community is set on raising $55,000 in order to save the position and keep the band program exactly how it is.

In the community of Vandalia, Ill. band is very important. Just this year alone seven seniors are going to college on music scholarships and some say it's because of one man, Mr. Tony Hicks. His position is now on the line because of lack of funding from the state.

So, the community has come together to raise the money and save Mr. Hicks' position and they are starting with a benefit concert.

"We love it, and I love them and they love me," said Hicks.

The Vandalia school bands are playing for this man, for themselves, for the school and for the community.

"I owe all of my success to him because he spent hours with me after school helping me practice," said student Bailey Jones.

Mr. Hicks has been the high school band director for six years and only recently found out that he is out of a job as of next year due to Illinois state funding cuts.

That's unless the community can raise $55,000 in order to keep his position and the current band program.

So, the people of Vandalia are opening their wallets and dishing out the dollars.

"They've seen what I've invested here and they see what their students, what their children have invested in me," said Hicks.

For Mr. Hicks this is his dream job, and for his students who call him "Papa Hicks" he is their dream director.

"He's given advice on stuff that I am not sure about, he's told me stuff that I shouldn't do, or should do," said student Sawyer Dickenson. "I go to him if I need to find something out I will ask my parents first then I will go talk to him about it and he's just a second father to me."

Dickenson says he doesn't want the band program to change for his musical family.

"We have five kids in band we have three percussionists, a French horn player and a trombonist," explained Dickenson's step-father, Marc Waschle.

As it stands right now the school will go from two band directors to one. One person for grades sixth through 12th. The district is also looking to cut the fifth grade band.

"The high school is the heart of the community and the band is the heart of the high school," said Waschle. "When you don't have music you have silence."

Mr. Hicks is thankful to have his job now and to have a family the size of this to support him.

"If I don't stand up for this, they are not going to learn to stand up for things either," said Hicks.

The community is planning a city wide garage sale to raise money and also a 5K run.

For more information about these upcoming events, visit the Save the Vandalia Band Facebook page and

As of Wednesday evening, the students had raised $12,000.


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