At first, they thought it was a scam. Someone from a wealth management firm in St. Petersburg had left a voicemail in May for the director of Gainesville High School Band and Guard.
A financial adviser claiming to represent potential anonymous donors – who knew the 110-member band needed new marching brass instruments – asked the director, Bill Pirzer, for a “pie in the sky” amount needed to replace them. That would mean nearly 50 such instruments.
Pirzer and Stephanie Kolb, president of the Gainesville High School Band Boosters, weren’t sure how to respond. Be honest, give a six-figure amount and maybe lose the donation? Or give a lower estimate, say $25,000, and come far short of what they needed for enough instruments?
The band director got an estimate of $102,800 from a local music equipment store. He sent it to the financial adviser and waited. Two weeks later, a check for $103,000 arrived at Kolb’s house.
On July 12, a semitrailer truck backed into the parking lot of GHS carrying 16 trumpets, 10 mellophones, 12 baritones, six tubas and four euphoniums, Pirzer said.
When the 2019-20 school year began Monday, the band no longer had to use brass instruments that were, as the director put it, “falling apart.” Indeed, before the donation, all of the band’s several hundred instruments in the band’s possession were bought from 1998 to 2001.
“We just started the process of trying to figure out what we’re going to do to raise money for these instruments – and this blessing just comes out of the blue,” Pirzer said.
George Kolb, Stephanie Kolb’s husband and the boosters’ treasurer, called it incredible.
“We were just dumbstruck at the fact that they actually paid for the entire cost of this new horn line,” George Kolb said.
The donation is the second significant donation for the band this year. In June, an anonymous donor known only to Pirzer and the Kolbs gave $8,000 for a new tower stand for the director to use to observe the band as it practices, Pirzer said.
A five-time state champion, the GHS band has performed in the 2017 National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington and on “Good Morning America.” In addition to taking the field at Hurricane football games, the band’s largest local community exposure is the University of Florida’s annual homecoming parade in the fall, which draws thousands of attendees.
Band members were, of course, elated to learn of the donation.
“We’ll have the resources for the band to grow as a program with the new instruments,” said Isabelle Lednicky, 17, a senior and brass captain and baritone section leader.
Mark-Anthony Martinez-Choi, assistant mellophone section leader, was on vacation in Arizona when one of his bandmates called to tell him the good news.
Asked what he would tell the donors, Martinez-Choi said: “Thank you a lot, because these kinds of things don’t happen often. And it really is just an incredible opportunity for the band.”