Editorial: Band Day mistake?

It is disappointing that high school bands will no longer perform at halftime of the University of Kansas football game during the annual Band Day event.

Band Day brings bands from all over Kansas and Missouri to Lawrence. Traditionally, the bands march in a parade downtown in the morning and join together for a mass band performance at halftime of the KU football game.

This year’s event — scheduled for Sept. 9 when KU plays Central Michigan — will feature the downtown parade, but the halftime performance has been canceled.

Matthew Smith, associate director of bands at the KU School of Music, said the decision to cancel the halftime segment was made after significant deliberation. He said factors that influenced the decision included dwindling interest from high schools, a reduction in parking availability and logistical challenges, such as limited storage space for large instruments at Memorial Stadium.

“Over the years, you see trends,” Smith said. “So in response to that, we made a decision this year.”

Smith said that going away from high school performances during halftime is a trend at other universities. “This has been a growing thing nationally,” he said. “This is not isolated to KU.”

As of this week, just 15 high schools had signed up for this year’s Band Day. In some years, the event has attracted more than 30 schools.

The halftime show has been a tradition at KU for nearly 70 years. The event was a win-win situation for the university and the high schools. The high school bands got to perform before the largest crowd most would ever see and the university got the opportunity to sell its campus to prospective students.

Without the halftime show, it seems unlikely that many of the high school band students and their families will stick around for the football game against Central Michigan. That’s too bad because KU needs all the fans it can get at football games. Last year, attendance at KU home football games was the worst not only in the Big 12 but also the worst of any school in one of the five power conferences.

On Band Day, the high school bands will march in the parade at 10 a.m. After the parade, the Marching Jayhawks will hold a performance for all participating bands at South Park. But there won’t be any reason for bands to stick around for the 3 p.m. game against Central Michigan, and on the surface, that seems to be a mistake for KU.