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Hernando County mother determined to keep the arts alive

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Posted at 5:53 AM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 08:35:08-04

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — A mother in Hernando County is taking action after her son's performances in the marching band have been disrupted because of COVID-19.

Merritt Tilson and her family are a trio of musicians. Her son Cameron, a senior at Springstead High School, started to play the french horn before he was in the double digits. His playing isn't stopping after graduation.

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"I am going to pursue music education throughout my college," Cameron said.

Music runs through his family's veins. So when they heard Springstead High School's marching band wouldn't hold regular performances this year due to coronavirus concerns, it stung.
"His senior year is highly changed, which is sad. Especially when he is hoping to go into music education," Merritt said.

When asked about the cancellation of marching band performances at Hernando County schools, representative Karen Jordan said, "because of differing concerns about performing during half-time each schools administration worked with their band director to make a decsion for their school."

Merritt said the lack of performances this season goes well beyond the school year. Her fear is the pandemic is the start of an already financially strained program.

"I fear for the future for all of the arts in Hernando County. I think that the band and music and art and drama and dance and all of that is highly needed in Hernando County," Merritt said.

Funding for the arts at Springstead High School has fluctuated over the past three years.

In the 2018-2019 school year, the band received $1,275 for the year. The following year the funding slightly increased to $1,400 and then declined to $625 for the 2020-2021 school year.

In 2019-2020, Springstead also received $14,608 from grant dollars to purchase band instruments.

For Cameron seeing the numbers is disheartening.

"I am minoring in engineering because of it because I don't know what's going to happen by the time I'm out of college with music education," Cameron said.

Both he and his mother agree the arts are more than playing an instrument. They serve as an outlet from the outside world.

"I know so many people that depend on the band as the escape from maybe at home problems and just social anxiety, and they depend on band to express those feelings," Cameron said.

Merritt is now looking into starting a non-profit organization to help fund band expenses across Hernando County.

"There are other parents who are interested in helping, but we need some help who really know the legalities and who could actually help with our fundraising needs and everything. We have the heart we just don't have every knowledge that we need to have," Merritt said.