Kids in Band / Flag Corp / Dance Team (whatever)

My 15 year old niece has moved in with us, due to her mom going to Iraq. Tiffany has had a very poor upbringing, and we are a little surprised that she hasn’t been any trouble at all (other than the fact that we have had to teach her lots of basics like how to vacuum and sweep and have now found we need to talk to her about why you don’t just walk around asking random people who they are planning to vote for and then loudly arguing why they shouldn’t vote for HRC, even if that’s not who they said. LOL). She’s a poor student out of laziness, but is pretty smart. We’ve put a big emphasis on school, and she’s doing well so far.

Okay, I don’t really know how much of that is relevant, but here is my problem right now, and I’d love to know if those of you that have experience with this think it’s normal. At the end of last year, she joined the dance team (also called flag corps and color guard) with the band. The practiced like crazy all summer – including 4 weeks of 8-5 band camp in 95-105 degree weather. They won most of their competitions last year and plan to do this again. They have band the last period of the day, and spend it on the field, staying after school until after 5 o’clock every single day. It seems excessive to me, but whatever, I guess they are winning their competitions.

The big problem is the expense. Band Camp and Costume Fees (not sure what this includes). Then there is her actual costume, which was over $500 (although this may have included some of the other stuff like her “Dance Team” windbreaker). It didn’t come with the bodysuit and tights we ordered separately. Then there are the hair pieces and T-shirts (see they all wear the same T-shirt to practice on the same day, so they must have enough different ones!). There are the boots and shoes (I was surprised this was only $75-ish). Oh, and don’t forget the garment and duffle bags, in the school colors, embroidered with her name and graduation date. Those two together cost around $70. Heaven forbid she just buy a red one from Walmart.

All that together has cost us right at a thousand dollars. I have no idea if this was laid out to parents when she joined, as she didn’t move in with us until the last of June. Speaking to some of the band parents, I found out that they do not pay anywhere close to that amount!

Today she comes home with a note telling her that which lipstick and eyeshadow she needs to by (complete with brand name and color number). It also says that everything else was ordered from Avon and we will get the totals later!!! I can’t see straight I’m so mad right now.

On top of that, they are taking a cruise during spring break that will be about $1200. Tiffany brings home no info about the fundraisers, and when I ask her she says she doesn’t know. I do go to band booster meetings, but if the kids aren’t being told about them, does that mean that they are expecting the parents to do it all? I figure they would have to, since the kids don’t get home from band practice until 6 pm and still have homework, with games and competitions on the weekends.

Is this normal? I’ve never had a high schooler before, even though I’ve taught in several. What about poor families? I mean, my husband and I aren’t poor, but we aren’t rich either, and it’s a real sacrifice for us. Her mom is Poor poor. This deployment to Iraq (she’s National Guard) is actually a blessing, as she is supposed to be using it to save up some extra money, but so far we have spent about 3x what she has been sending us. If she hadn’t been deployed, would some kind soul step in somewhere, or would Tiffany have to drop out? I can guarantee that my sister-in-law wouldn’t be sending checks to school right and left. She doesn’t pay bills, you see. :rolleyes:

I think this is good for Tiffany, as she has never had anything positive in her life. She got into Journalism last year, so she’s also on the newspaper staff. It’s so awesome to see her all excited about stuff, and involved, and starting to have goals for what she wants to do. But does it really have to cost that much money? And does it really matter if she wears Avon blush?

I am also wondering what she’ll be doing for that class period after football and marching season is over. But that’s another question.

I was in the dance team my senior year in high school 1987. I bought my outfit/pompoms used from a graduating senior, but I did buy new boots and gloves (sorry don’t remember the price). Tshirts, windbreakers, duffle bags, MATCHING MAKE UP?? Completely out of my realm of experience. We did go to DisneyWorld with the Marching Band my senior year and we did a fundraiser, but I seem to recall there was a fee my parents paid (sorry, also don’t remember).

It was definitely the most exciting thing I did in high school, I had been a geeky band member/honor society student and it remains one of my fondest high school memories - part of the “popular, pretty” kids at last. My mom probably would have ponied up for a windbreaker (I imagine I would have loved it to pieces and cherished it that year) but make up, special pricey duffle bags and matching special tshirts seems kinda nuts. Hairpieces would have been a no go (it was the 80s anyway, I had a mullet!)

I never did marching band when I was in high school in the mid-'90s, despite taking Jazz Band every semester. But yes, the marching band members had to buy all kinds of stuff, and it all has to match and come from the same sources. Between the uniforms, equipment, and trips, it costs an arm and a leg, and I’m sure the dance girls had makeup and all kinds of other stuff to worry about. I had a saxophone that wasn’t cheap, but all the little things really added up for everyone else, on top of their instrument costs.

I was in marching band in HS, and was one of the lucky few that got to go on a trip my Freshman year, and another my Senior year (this being a result of the new HS having been built). In retrospect, I guess I could have done without the first trip, but as it was presented to me it was my only chance for a trip.

I don’t know now, nor did I really know then, what the extra costs involved were. Keep in mind these were special trips. Both from Ohio, the first was to the Gator Bowl in FL, and the second was to Disneyland in CA, both of which we performed at.

There were numerous fund raising opportunities for both parents and kid for the last trip. I worked at a call center taking CC info from people and putting them through the approval process. Eventually, I was allowed to look over the credit rating of a person, and approve or deny a card based on my view of their in-depth credit score. I even qualified a Structure card for Aaron Spelling. My parents, recently divorced, took the option of being guest servers at “Picnic At The Pops” which was and is, a large outdoor venue for symphonic and pop music. Think Blood Sweat and Tears, and the Doc Severenson orchestra. They did that for several weeks and actually had fun.

The notion of a flag corps program making such specific, monetary demands seems to be a bit outlandish to me. The flag corps had the same options as we did for those trips.

$1000 is enough to be a concern no matter what the extra-curricular activity. I’m surprised by that amount.

My niece’s daughter is 10 years old and has been on softball teams since she was six years old.
The bat alone cost $300.
The yearly fee to be on the team is $350.
This does not include two changes of uniform, the matching luggage, the trips all over the USA for championship games, side trips to the batting cages, and other little things.

My best guess is that $1,000 would not come close to covering the costs for one year.

Still, she is a great player, the team wins consistently and plays all the championship games, which is why travel is so expensive, and the girl loves playing softball. She is also a straight-A student. She recently had to change teams and coaches from other teams called and begged my niece to let her play for them, so she must be pretty good.

My niece doesn’t earn a lot, but she considers every dime she spends for her daughter’s softball expenses well-spent.
I would have to agree.

The old days, when schools sponsored such events and the most parents had to pay was for matching outfits, is long over.

Budgets have been cut and now it is normal for parents to cough up the dough to pay for what used to be relatively free, extra-curricular events.

Are there other band parents you could compare notes with? Or can you talk to their coach/adviser/equivalent? There may be some scholarship fund or other means of additional support. But it is amazing the expenses that parents have to incur for kids’ activities.

Good on you for supporting your niece and giving her such great opportunities!

Good luck!


$1000 is high, but not outlandish, depending on the overall SES of the school. There is probably some sort of support system for kids who can’t afford it, but it is probably pretty informal–there are various parents at my high school who are “angels” and will annonymously donate to the accounts of kids who can’t afford to participate. I’d take the director aside and talk about how her mom’s in Iraq and so not making much money and things are tight and can anything be done? Don’t bring yourself up at all–It’s not “I don’t want to pay for this”, it’s “Her mom needs help paying for this”. Alternatively, is there other family you could dun? Grandmothers, other aunts and uncles? They may be delighted to help, and they are as closely related to her as you are, so it’s not like you are asking them to take over what is really your responsibility–you are asking them to help with a family project.

Lastly, is she on free/reduced lunch? If she qualifies, make sure she signs up for it. Often being part of that program is the litmus test for aid. That’s how schools know kids are disadvantaged.

I was on the high school drill team for three years (back in '79, '80 & '81), and it was pricey, but it was all for things that you had to have.
Simple as that.
My mom paid for some of it, and I paid for some, with money I made at a part-time job. $1,000 doesn’t seem all that high, considering everything that is needed for drill team/band. If we could, we always tried to get whatever we could from graduating seniors that were on the drill team, but there was never enough to go around, so we almost always had to buy our own stuff.

The makeup thing didn’t even enter into the equation, as we didn’t have to wear ‘matching’ makeup back then.

Our trips/performances were paid for using the money made from fund-raisers, so we didn’t have to pay for the hotels or transportation to any of those. We had to pay for whatever food we wanted, and other things that we might want to buy along the way.

If it is getting to be too much of a burden, I’d go to the school, and talk to the band/drill team teacher and principal, to see if there is any help available. There was always money left over from the fund-raisers, and I know that at my school, if one of the band members/drill team members needed any specific items that they, or their family, couldn’t afford, it was purchased with that money for them.

Good luck! I hope this works out for you and for her, because it’s a wonderful experience to have in high school!

I’d definitely talk to other dance team parents, along with the adult advising the program to find out how much of this stuff is actually required by the program and how much of it is just peer pressure. (I have to have this because all the other girls do!) If Tiffany can use this for the next few years, then the cost is diluted somewhat, but it’s still a huge amount to lay out.

You might also ask about a fundraiser specifically for the dance team, to help students pay for the stuff over and above what the band needs. You might also see about starting an arrangement where younger girls can “inherit” costumes and so forth from graduating seniors and girls leaving the team.

The Avon purchase is a HUGE red flag. Someone is going to profit from what has to be a large sale, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the other girls sells Avon, or her mother does. I’d bring that to the attention of the advisor, because it’s a conflict of interest. Tiffany should have a choice of makeup; no one can tell if makeup matches from the stands, and the colors may not look good on some of the girls.

That said, the others upthread have some good suggestions. But I’d definitely talk to the advisor to see what’s required and what’s not, and to find out if there’s any financial help available.


Jehosaphat! I was feeling a little grumpy about twenty bucks here and there for my kids’ club fees, with a more expensive field trip threatening later in the year, but I see I’ve just been lucky! I’d definitely be talking to someone up at the school about this. Especially the matching makeup horseshit.

The Avon purchase rings some alarm bells for me too, because you don’t need any finely-tuned colors or premium mixtures in performance makeup. Anyone who’s seen college marching band flag girls up close knows that the makeup is downright garish – it’s much more like a theater group’s stage makeup than something you’d wear normally. As a guy who doesn’t wear much makeup, I don’t know how much you can “cake on” to get that effect, but MsRobyn is right: someone’s going to make a ton of money on that sale.

And how does Tiffany plan to earn $1200 between now and then, with her busy practice schedule?

Scrutinize the forms that come home with Tiffany very closely – given your doubts about what is mandatory and what is optional, you may be getting slightly different documents than the other parents. Don’t ask Tiffany who you can talk to; find another parent at one of the events and ask them directly. If one of the parents shows up in a pink car, consider talking to someone else. :dubious:

I was in the school band in high school, '94-'98, but I never was able to be in the marching band because my family simply could not afford it. The uniforms were rented, then we had to buy shoes and gloves on our own. The uniform had to be dry cleaned after every game, and if the gloves weren’t pristine white, we had to buy another pair. Then there was the fee to even be a member. All told, I think it was well over $1000 per year. I never knew of any assistance for lower income familes, either. I sat in band class and learned the marching music, but never could learn to march. I remember how left out I felt.

It became a moot point later in my freshman year when someone decided to vandalize the instrument room, destroying my flute for all time. Never got anything but dirty looks from the band director every time the foot joint fell off in class, either.

I just want to say that it’s a good thing you’re doing, taking in your niece and giving her a taste of what life should be like. Having an irresponsible parent doesn’t give kids the training to show them how adults are supposed to behave in the real world.


I was on dance team in high school for a year and they did require matching make up, though they gave a list of what the shade was called by cover girl, mabelline, etc. to us and let us go get it ourselves. All of these things may be required (though the duffle bag requirement may just be that it has to be school colors or something like that and she really wanted this specific bag) and your best bet would be to speak up at a booster meeting about things you can do to help defray the cost for all of the girls, not just Tiffany.

They should be having bake sales in the cafeteria, car washes on Saturdays, etc. to raise money for their trips and expenses. Part of the learning experiences we got from theater and dance and such was that fun isn’t free and you have to work for it if you want it that badly.

Also consider that these costs can sort of be absorbed at gift giving events. For her birthday tell grandma she needs new dance boots. For christmas tell the cousins she would like a contribution towards her trip at the end of the school year.

Sadly, this is normal. My daughter (also 15) is in band. Her fees that have to be paid in cash up front are around $600, then the practice/summer uniform (polo shirt, white pants, black socks and specific shoes) was around $100. Fortunately, this was a one-time expense last year (well, except for the pants, as she lost weight and needed new pants) until she wears the stuff out. The t-shirts (she had to buy 2, since they have football games on Fridays and competitions on Saturdays and don’t want them wearing dirty tshirts under their uniforms) cost $30 and of course, she is only allowed to wear a school hoodie over her stuff in the winter, so that was another $75 (which did include the embroidery). Every 2 years, the band goes to Walt Disney World, and that trip cost about $1K between transportation, lodging, food and spending money – another $2K, since we made it a family vacation.

She is debating doing Winter Guard, which will cost another $600 up front for fees, etc and who knows how much along the way for competitions, makeup, etc.

Band Boosters are notorious for expecting the parents to do all the work, and not being very good about communicating with the parents. Welcome to owning a teenager, good luck to you!

I ain’t no girl, but I marched in Winter Guard close on 30 years ago. I had never worn lipstick and blush and whatever other kinds of make up before (and I’ve never worn it since ;)). But we all had to have matching make up, I just had one of the girls in the guard buy mine since I was, and still am, clueless. I didn’t pay $1000.00 in 1978 money on uniforms and equipment, but I spent a good $500.00.

I was in Marching Band from '94-'98. Our (brand-new) uniforms were bought by the school, and we were loaned them for the school year. Anything that was returned damaged, the student was charged for, according to the price sheet they got at the beginning of the year. The color guard may have had to purchase their own outfits, but I’m not sure. For field trips, I know we had to pay for most or all of it, but there were tons of fund-raising events all year long. We even had out own ‘bank accounts’ that the band director kept for us, and that, I believe would carry over from one year to the next. It paid no interest, but on the other hand, you could toss in a dollar here and there as you got it and the trip would cost that much less. The trip fees themselves were broken up into chunks throughout the year, so the huge bill didn’t come all at once.

Definitely talk to the Band Boosters, tell them her story and see what they can do to help. Even if they’re not doing group fund raisers (our Boosters were incredible in that regard, and student out-of-pocket expenses were minimal) they would be the ones who could find a few bucks here or there to help Tiffany.

If she’s a good, enthusiastic member then they want her to stick around. Band isn’t just for kids with money.

This rings alarm bells for me, especially since Morelin describes my own experiences with band much more accurately–yeah, I had to buy my own instruments (at a cumulative total of $2000, but I could’ve got by with $200 =P), but uniforms were issued on loan, any decent black shoes in the right style would do ($20), and the field trip and embroidered jackets was paid for by a combo of fundraisers and parental/personal contribution–the director kept track of who sold how many tickets or hoagies or candy bars, and you had to sell an aggregate of something like 1200 items to get the field trip and jacket free.

But yeah, we didn’t pay for anything having to do with the actual performance of the band or travel to normal in-state events. That had its downsides (you could tell my religion for the first few parades, owing to how small the largest available pants were for me.)

For reference, I marched at a AA high school in central PA from 1991-1997, on the other hand we only took one big field trip (but it was an all-expense-paid run to Toronto for North American Music Festival competitions, including theatre tickets and a trip to Canada’s Wonderland included). The band averaged a trip every four years, but 7th and 8th graders weren’t eligible to go.

Thanks for the advice everyone. I talked to the band booster president today, and I don’t think I’ll be getting much help from her. I don’t know if she misunderstood and thought that I just meant the band trip itself, as she just mentioned one of the upcoming fundraisers for it, or what. When I told her my concerns on Avon, she cut me off with “Oh, but you are getting it at cost!” The few parents I have talked to all say “Yeah, it’s expensive but sooo worth it!”

I need to go talk to the advisor and maybe even the band director. I just got a job teaching at this school, which is my first “real job” in the public school system. I’ve subbed off and on for years, and taught in two private schools before my daughter was born. So I do have easy access to them; it’s just knowing what to say. The Flag Advisor knows some of our situation already, just because I went around introducing myself to all her teachers before school started.

I guess my husband and I also need to talk to Tiffany’s grandparents, and we will have to call a family meeting about how she plans to earn the money for the trip. Maybe place more of that burden on her in some way. I have no idea how to do it though, as we didn’t think we’d have a teenage for another 11 years! We got this one with only a month’s notice. I wish we could get some help from her dad, but his point of view is that he is raising her brother and sister, and her mom only has her. She doesn’t give him money for the two he’s got (plus he has two more with his second wife, and two step-kids). Every now and then when he feels like being a “good dad” he’ll come pick her up and maybe take her to get her hair cut or shopping in some other small way. He lives about 45-50 minutes away in another state (moving states & schools is part of the reason she didn’t move in with him). I don’t even know how we could begin to approach him on something. It’s all so weird and foreign to me, because none of my family is like that.
Oh and all their fundraisers are all selling stuff – pizza & cookie dough, school jewelry, fruit, poinsettias, and we can earn two dollars an hour towards our kid by working concession stands at the football games.

I liked someone’s idea up thread about incorporating this into her birthday and Christmas presents. We did talk to her already about how we aren’t giving her much spending money for this trip. She needs to work at saving her allowance and finding ways to earn money for that.

I don’t know. We’ll figure this out I guess.