Payday finally comes for Burrton band

Members of Burrton's high school band show off the $4,000 check that they finally received from the Wichita Force last Saturday. Pictured, back row from left, is Braiden Pettijohn, Ashlee Taylor, Malloree Matlack, Colby Embree, Wally Lang, Dorian Hadley. Front row: Kirsten Dold, Lucy Embree, Olivia Perkins and Madison Kirk.

By Jared Janzen

BURRTON—The Burrton band finally got its due.

Last Saturday, band director Mark Robinson received a $4,000 check in the mail from the Wichita Force, the long overdue prize money promised after Burrton won a Battle of the Bands competition in June of 2019.

“Finally I can quit bugging those people,” Robinson said. “They’re probably relieved, too, in a way, that I’m not going to be after them anymore.”

All but two of the Burrton students who participated in the Battle of the Bands have since graduated or quit band. One of the participants was 2021 alumna Krista Woodworth, who happened to be visiting her old band class Tuesday afternoon. She was a sophomore during the Battle of the Bands, and she said she and her classmates never forgot about the promised prize money.

“No, we knew,” she said. “We constantly bothered Mr. Robinson, like, ‘Mr. Robinson, when are we going to get that money?’ Then we graduated, but he kept us informed.”

She’s happy for the Burrton band to finally receive the prize.

“It’s nice that they at least get it so they can spend it on repairs,” Woodworth said.

Robinson plans to use the money on some much-needed purchases for his band.

“We need a piccolo pretty bad, and we can buy some music,” he said. “Things that I’ve been putting off. Now I can feel a little more free to buy them rather than asking if I have enough money to buy this or this or this? Now I know I’ve got it.”

Robinson has 18 students in his high school band this year, split into two sections. Many of Burrton’s band students wouldn’t be able to participate in band without instruments provided by the school.

As was reported in last week’s Harvey County Now, Robinson has made repeated inquiries over the past two years as to when his band would receive its prize but never received a definite answer. Within 24 hours of this story being posted online last Wednesday, it had been shared more than 200 times, with many people outraged by the way the bands were treated. Wichita then media began covering the story.

Wichita Force owner Jeff Martin appeared on the KFH Sports Radio show on Thursday morning, where he promised to write for checks for Burrton and second-place Clearwater that day.

“At the end of day, we can talk about turnover and old employees and this, that, and the other, but at the end of the day, the buck stops with me, and it’s all about the kids,” Martin said.

He attributed staffing turnover and poor communication as reasons the bands had not been paid. The Battle of the Bands competition was organized by a previous general manager, he said.

“At the end of the season there was a winner, which I was told was Burrton and second was Clearwater,” he told KFH Radio. “Other than that, I was misinformed that things were taken care of, but obviously they were not taken care of. We could go through the long and short of it, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. The buck stops with us, and we will take care of it.”

Martin was asked when he had learned about the problem of the bands not having received their prize money. He replied “a couple weeks ago,” which is also the time that the Harvey County Now started leaving messages with him.

“I started doing my research, talking to ex-employees about how this problem occurred,” he said. “Unfortunately we work with quite a bit of turnover. […] It’s not until you dive into things that you find out you’re misled on things,” Martin said. “I can point the finger here, there, everywhere, but at the end of the day, it has to point at me.”

Clearwater band director Derrick Hibler, Jr., reported that his band also received the $1,000 prize money this week, which the Force owed them for second place in the competition.

“We are relieved and glad we can finally move on from this three-year ordeal,” Hibler said. “It’s been a long time coming and we are glad to finally put this to rest. Thank you to the Wichita Force for owning up and making this right by our students and our band program.”

Hibler said Clearwater would use the money to fund its activities this year, like a spring break trip to San Antonio. He also thanked Robinson for never giving up this fight for both band programs to receive their money.

“This just goes to show you should never give up when it comes to standing up for what is right and just,” Hibler said.

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