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WV budget cuts cause West Liberty to drop band

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. — The music of the West Liberty University Marching Hilltoppers has been silenced as the school seeks to reduce spending and get in step with state budget cuts.

The band, which has between 50 and 55 members, has been eliminated at WLU to cut costs.

“It was a tough decision,” said WLU spokeswoman Maureen Zambito. “Nobody wants to cut the band, but the budget for the state of West Virginia is constantly being cut. Academic programs are still being maintained.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin last year ordered a 4-percent budget cut for most government agencies, and state universities and colleges were included in the reductions.

“Appropriations from the state have been cut drastically, and will most likely continue to fall – and due to these reductions in state budgetary support, the Marching Hilltoppers and the Pep Band are now on a hiatus,” said Dr. Matthew Harder, interim dean of the WLU College of Arts and Communication, in a prepared statement.

“The university made this decision in consultation with myself, the chair of the Department of Music and Theater, the band director, and the faculty of the music program. This decision was based purely on financial considerations.”

The faculty and students involved with the WLU bands always performed with excellence and professionalism, according to Harder. He said the bands were well-organized, well-rehearsed and “always represented the music program positively.”

“These bands were highly appreciated by the athletics programs and enjoyed by the many fans attending the games,” Harder said. “We have always been proud of the students who participated in these bands. The music program is strong and will move forward in new and exciting directions as it always has and we appreciate the continued support of our campus and the community.”

State budget cuts require all public institutions of higher education to look closely at expenses for fiscal year 2017 and West Liberty University is doing that, according to university President Stephen Greiner.

“All departments were asked to look over their spending and trim as they see fit, keeping in mind that we will have fewer state dollars to fund the university next year,” he said. “The College of Arts and Communication (has) suggested the possibility of suspending the athletic bands to reduce departmental costs while maintaining the highest level of academics. This is the music department’s decision and isn’t taken lightly. It is a direct result of years of consistent budget cuts by the state of West Virginia.”

Greiner emphasized no academic programs in music are being eliminated.

“There are still many opportunities for musical performance at WLU,” he said.

The move comes as West Liberty’s men’s basketball team prepares to compete in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Division II basketball tournament in Frisco, Texas, this week. The band did not travel with the team to the tournament.

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