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VUU marching band says they're underfunded, haven't received new instruments since 2015: 'This is your legacy'

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Posted at 5:43 PM, Jun 12, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- Gayle Brown says at one point, Virginia Union University's marching band, "Ambassadors of Sound," saved her son.

"The marching band is the only reason he lasted as long as he did," Brown said. "He is no longer a student."

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Gayle Brown

She's a "band booster" parent, alongside Devita Graves, whose son is also in the band. They say around last year, things started going south.

"As band booster parents, we pretty much have to go out and raise funds on our own to make sure the students have much of what they need to move forward, but then they get put on suspension, for the actions of one or two band students," Graves said. "Their behaviors affect the entire band. The entire band gets shut down."

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Devita Graves

According to a letter written by booster members sent to VUU President Dr. Hakim Lucas in September, the band has to borrow instruments from four different area high schools: Highland Springs, Thomas Jefferson, Bethel and Hermitage High Schools.

"Even though you have authorized instruments to be purchased for the band, no instruments have been purchased since 2015," the letter reads.

The letter also says: "There were instruments and uniforms that were ruined in the flooding that occurred in Pickford Hall over the summer and to this date, nothing has been replaced."

"First of all, the instruments to begin with were not the best. They already had wear and tear on them, and then to add water to it, now they're destroyed. They're unusable," Brown said. "Why wouldn't you push through your claims, insurance-wise, and make sure that stuff is taken care of?"

The letter also indicated band members were told they would have limited opportunities to perform at away games and parades, calling the move "detrimental" to retaining band members.

Just a few months later, VUU pulled out of the Dominion Energy Christmas Parade in Richmond.

"This is one of your largest organizations on campus that can increase your enrollment," Brown said. "Actually, the band's numbers increased so greatly, and of course, the university benefited from that. Why would you not continue to support, financially, that program?"

Lucas responded to the letter, saying much of the information shared is "inaccurate," adding that VUU's Vice President and Athletic Director would address their concerns.

"But we never got a response from either of them," Graves said.

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CBS 6 confirmed VUU's former band director, Fayesha Cole was recently let go from her position. A GoFundMe was made in May to support her and her family.

Mrs. Cole told CBS 6 she cannot comment on the matter at this time.

Parents like Graves and Brown just want clarity and answers to their questions.

"Take care of those who are taking care of you. This is your future. This is your legacy. These will one day be alumni that will hopefully give back," Brown said.

CBS 6 reached out to VUU for comment on these claims and if the university could provide proof of purchasing new instruments and uniforms for the students.

We are waiting for a response at this time.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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