Musicians prepare to pay the piper

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LAPS: Rental fees set to go into effect at first of year

By Tris DeRoma

The Los Alamos Board of Education recently approved a measure that would allow the schools to charge a rental fee to outside musical groups looking to use instruments from the high school. 

For $50 a semester, musicians from the Los Alamos Community Winds and the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra can rent the high school’s larger instruments for rehearsals, saving musicians the effort of moving their own instruments back and forth to their rehearsal space and other logistical problems. Instruments that fit the category include timpani, bass drums, gongs, xylophones, vibraphones and other percussion instruments.

According to Kim Lettellier, the school system’s music staff team leader, one reason for the fee is to be fair to the students who are also renting instruments from the school. Students that rent from the district pay $100 during the school year and $50 for the summer. The money goes into a special fund set aside for repairs.

“It didn’t seem quite fair to me that we expected the students to pay something, but we didn’t expect these outside groups to pay something,” Lettellier said.

According to Lettelier, she already had talked to both music groups and they seemed fine with the $50 a semester fee, as long as it remained stable.

When school board President Kevin Honnell asked Letellier if the plan is to keep the rental fee stable, she said yes.

“I assured them that this would not happen,” she said. “We were not looking at this as a means of making money, but as a way of supporting and taking care of those larger dollar items that needed to be addressed occasionally.”

She also noted that when musicians from the symphony and the orchestra have used the instruments at the high school in the past, they’ve gone ahead and made the repairs out of their own pocket anyway, whether that would involve replacement part or the tuning of a timpani head or changing out a wheel on a xylophone or vibraphone. 

When asked by Honnell if she thought the out-of-pocket repairs would stop now that they are paying a rental fee, she said she didn’t think so.

“That’s not who they are,” she said.” If there’s something that needs to be repaired, especially, if it’s an instrument that they need to use, they are going to do the repair.”

According to the school district’s Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe, members who rent instruments from the high school will be issued an invoice and asked to pay the fee in full within 30 days after the first rehearsal.

The fee is set to go in effect in January.