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New Kent students, parents upset over band program ‘shake-ups’

Posted at 7:23 PM, May 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-17 07:08:09-04

NEW KENT COUNTY, Va. (WTVR)--Some students in New Kent County are hitting a sour note over a big band loss.

Members of the New Kent High School band members and their parents say their beloved director who elevated the program is being dismissed with no explanation.

Parents say, James Minnix, the high school band director, will not be tendered a contract next year because he harvested grapes at a New Kent winery during a school fundraiser last September. The estimated $3,000 was going to help buy new band uniforms and trailer to haul the 20 piece band’s equipment.

"We are just floored as to why,” says parent Kenny Pace. "Mr. Minnix came out on a Saturday with no pay. No nothing to support the program."

"They're going to have a hard time replacing him,” says 15-year-old band member Taylor Newman. "I think it hurts because he has improved the band so much."

According to parents the middle school's band director - Reba Marrs - will also not be returning in the fall.

"By taking his resignation and middle school resignation the administration took band program back for years,” says Pace, who has a son and daughter in the band.

With the future of the band directors hanging in the balance, parents and students fear the momentum gained by the young musicians will be lost.

Nicole Pace, a recent New Kent High graduate and former band member, laments the loss of her mentor.

"He is just a great role model. Everyone looks up to him. He is always hands on with any fund raising we do. It is a great disappointment,” says Nicole. “I was heartbroken because he has done so many great things for it."

A New Kent County School spokeswoman tells CBS 6 both band directors are both still employed, but could not comment about next school year citing personnel matters.

Parent Elizabeth Miller says, "We were picking grapes. I was dismayed to hear that. I was impressed with his vision."

For supporters of James Minnix? If he does not return to New Kent High the school band will turn to playing the blues.

Parent Kenny Pace says, "He is a great teacher great lover of music. Wherever he goes they'll love him too."