NCCU band boosters want more support for musicians

Jun. 24, 2014 @ 04:27 PM

Dennis Ellis, chairman of the N.C. Central University Sound Machine Booster Club, said he wants the university “to act like the family that we’re supposed to be.”

But lately the family seems dysfunctional, he said, with cuts in funding for musicians and instrument repairs, plus the sudden and unexpected dismissal last month of band director Jorim Reid and two other NCCU marching band staffers.

“We’re supposed to be a family here,” Ellis said. “We’re generally close, but especially during these hard times, we have to plot a strategy where everybody’s playing their role the way they’re supposed to.”

On Wednesday night, booster club members will host an open forum at the Hayti Heritage Center at 894 Old Fayetteville St. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

“The administration’s decision, without warning to students or supporters, to not renew Reid’s contract after 14 years – and fire two of his mentees, Lamon Lawhorn and Karimah Bennett – is a sign of longstanding (systemic) problems that threaten the overall success of the program, hinder funding for scholarship offerings, competitive recruitment and travel opportunities, and ignore the role band members play as ambassadors of the university,” states a news release from the booster club.

Thurman Hollins, the former band director at St. Augustine’s University, starts as NCCU’s interim director on July 1. But Ellis wants to make clear the problem goes beyond band leadership.

“It’s about the lack of support by the administration for the students and the program itself,” Ellis said.

Club leaders are frustrated by a lack of funding – and fundraising efforts – on behalf of music programs at the university.

The booster club helps offset costs by providing water, snacks and meals, photography and video services and volunteer equipment hauling.

“They simply don’t give them all the money they need to run a successful program,” said Marilyn Clements, club president. “We’re volunteers. We don’t get paid one dime to do what we do. A lot of people are angry and upset; they want to know what needs to be done to fix this.”

It’s time for a change in direction, Ellis said.

“It is up to all of us – alumni too – to pitch in,” he said. “But all of it starts with administrators reaching out. No entity should be left out there in the cold, so to speak.”

Late Tuesday, administrators didn’t offer comment about the group’s complaint.

“I’ve just recently received the release the Band Boosters circulated so we will need time to carefully review it,” said NCCU spokeswoman Ayana Hernandez.

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