TWIN FALLS — They’re getting the band back together.
For the first time in at least 10 years, a Twin Falls High School marching band is taking the field at home football games.
In previous years, a band participated in the school’s yearly homecoming parade. But for at least a decade, there hasn’t been a regular marching band to perform a halftime field show.
“Part of my teaching philosophy is offering the kids the whole pie,” band teacher Christy Taylor said, and marching band is a big piece of it. It’s her second year as band teacher at Twin Falls High and Vera C. O’Leary Middle School.
In the Magic Valley, marching bands seem to be less common than in the Boise and Pocatello areas, said Wayne Millett, president of the Idaho Music Educators Association.
“Generally throughout the state, it’s pretty normal for 4A and 5A schools to have a marching band,” he said. “It’s a little unusual Twin Falls hasn’t had one.”
Across south-central Idaho, only a handful of schools have marching bands, including Jerome High School, Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls, Wendell High School, Burley High School and Minico High School in Rupert.
Jerome’s ensemble has landed some big performances over the years and represented Idaho in 2016 in the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C.
Twin Falls’ marching band includes 30 members, about 20 percent of the 130 students in the high school band program.
Students started rehearsing in July and spent two weeks at a summer band camp, from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day Monday through Friday.
Their field show features a piece of music called “Habanera” from the opera “Carmen.” Twin Falls High’s marching band is performing at every home football game this fall, plus two band competitions in October: at Minico High and Idaho State University’s Mountain West Marching Band Festival.
So far, students are enjoying marching band, Taylor said, and she notices they’re hanging out more outside of class.
Junior Shaelee Morton, 16, said marching band is really fun. “We work hard,”she said. “I think we’re becoming a small family.”
Shaelee, who has been playing in school bands since eighth grade, joined marching band to have something to do after school.
She has also played in Twin Falls High’s concert band, as well as a wind ensemble she and a couple of other flute players formed. She plans to continue with marching band her senior year of high school.
The hardest part about getting started: learning to march in time with music, Shaelee said. But once you’ve learned it, “it’s easy and you can teach someone else how to do it.”
For Twin Falls High, a long hiatus without a marching band — how many years, no one seems to know for sure — comes with challenges.
There are old polyester band uniforms from the 1970s, but they’re too small and don’t seem to fit anyone, Taylor said. Instead, band members are wearing matching pullover sweaters with a Twin Falls High logo.
The band already had all of the instruments it needed but used donation money to buy a marching sousaphone.
But there’s still so much the band could use, Taylor said, and donations are always welcome.
It’s a common theme for marching bands: The two biggest obstacles to starting a program are often time and money.
“Money is a big one,” said Millett, who’s a music teacher in Aberdeen. “Marching band is very, very expensive.”
Uniforms are a huge part of the cost, he said, as well as instruments — particularly, percussion. On top of that, marching band is a time-consuming endeavor, with rehearsals, football games, competitions and parades.
“The band director has to have a love of marching band,” Millett said, because it takes so much time. But he added: “It’s awesome to watch.”
Aberdeen had a marching band for about five years, starting in 2001, but doesn’t anymore.
“In a small school, one of the biggest problems we had is I’m fighting for the same kids as the football team and the cross-country team,” Millett said.
At Twin Falls High, white yard lines are spray painted onto a makeshift field — a grassy area between the main school entrance and Roper Auditorium.
Taylor started an after-school rehearsal around 4 p.m. Sept. 21 by using a black plastic trash bag to scoop up dog poop from the grass. It was an unusually chilly day, with the high temperature hovering around 50 degrees.
The band practiced marching on and off the field. “Left, left, left,” Taylor repeated as she used a mallet to hit a wood block, trying to help students march in time using the correct foot.
They ran through the field show several times, stopping periodically to work on certain sections. A couple of times, they sang their parts while focusing on marching, including in one “S” shaped curve.
As they wrapped up another run-through, Taylor told students: “Wherever the last drum note is, you have to freeze — right or wrong.”
At the end of rehearsal, Taylor reminded students to show up at 6:30 p.m. the following night for a home football game. She dismissed the group by saying: “Cool. Adios.”
BOISE — A new analysis on how much Idaho would save by switching public employees to a self-insurance model puts the amount at $13 million for the first year of operation.
The analysis made public last week by Mercer, an actuarial consultant contracted by state officials, came as Republican gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist has repeatedly said that the state could save as much as $60 million over three years.
Under the plan, the state would pay for health insurance for about 45,600 state workers and family members directly rather than purchasing insurance through an insurance carrier known as a fully insured model. Idaho currently has a hybrid fully insured plan with Blue Cross of Idaho.
Mercer’s analysis did not forecast how much the state would save over three years.
Idaho lawmakers the self-insurance system for several years and legislative leaders appointed an interim panel to review the topic for the past two summers, aiming for a final recommendation before the start of the 2018 session.
“We are 90 percent self-funded already,” said Jennifer Pike, the state’s group insurance program administrator, during the most recent interim panel’s meeting. “But we do pay (Affordable Care Act) fees and we do pay premium taxes and we cannot get away from those in our current structure.”
Ahlquist has highlighted the proposed switch as a solution to slashing what he calls wasteful government spending from the state’s general fund.
Ahlquist, a Boise businessman running for elected office for the first time, is running television advertisements promising to cut $100 million in state spending during his first 100 days in office if he is elected next year.
A key figure in that ad cites a 2016 report outlining a potential $60 million savings by switching state employees to a self-insurance fund.
Ahlquist said savings of $13 million by switching to the new insurance plan would be significant even though the savings do not represent an equivalent annual amount for the $60 million he has said would be saved over three years.
“This to me is a no-brainer,” he said in an interview last week at a campaign event.
Ahlquist did not provide any other details on how he would achieve the full $100 million of cuts to the state’s annual $3.5 billion budget.
“There are so many more things in the $100 million,” he said.
A new governor will take office in 2019 but the switch to the self-insurance fund could come before that. The interim panel’s lawmakers are scheduled to finalize their recommendation in October, which would be considered as early as January.
TWIN FALLS — The county no longer wants to be the sponsor for a transportation advisory committee it formed in 1990.
The Transportation Committee for the Greater Twin Falls Area is a county committee that studies and makes recommendations to the state regarding transportation issues. Its members include representatives from highway districts, the county and its cities, the trucking industry and law enforcement.
At 10 a.m. Friday, county commissioners will vote whether to dissolve the committee as a county committee. The advisory group is intended to continue on as a separate entity.
“I think it will have the advantage of keeping the county more independent on issues,” committee chairman Gerald Martens said.
The county has one member on the committee, but in the past the advisory group’s recommendations have been misconceived as the county’s recommendations, he said.
County Commissioner Terry Kramer noted that the committee has not always followed some of the strict rules placed on it because of its county sponsorship. And none of its members have been appointed by the county.
“As time has gone on, it’s gotten way too complicated,” he said.
In 2015, county prosecutor Grant Loebs reached out to the Transportation Committee after receiving a complaint that it was violating open meeting laws. It had apparently not posted notices for its meetings in 25 years.
Since then, the committee has posted agendas on the county’s website, Martens said.
Another rule says group members must pay dues, but at least in recent years, they haven’t, Commissioner Jack Johnson said. Johnson is the county’s representative on the committee.
Even if they had paid dues, he believes the county shouldn’t be acting as repository for that money.
The commissioners also noted that other, similar advisory committees in Idaho are not formed under a county.
“All they are is an advisory group,” Johnson said. “They don’t even advise us.”
The Transportation Committee for the Greater Twin Falls Area will continue to post its agendas somewhere, Martens said. The group meets at 7 a.m. the second Tuesday of each month at Idaho Joe’s.
“We will still participate,” Kramer said. “But we will not be the sponsor.”
The commissioners meet on the second floor of the County West building, 630 Addison Ave. W.