Stolen Tubas in SoCal

High school tuba players around Southern California have been unfairly silenced by a strange abundance of recent band room burglaries— where tubas and sousaphones are the only things stolen.

“We were floored when we realized the tubas were stolen because we all realize how much it costs to get it replaced,” says Ruben Gonzalez of South Gate High School. “They only took tubas.”

South Gate has been hit twice, losing five tubas total. The thieves broke in using bolt cutters and crowbars, in spite of a fully-functioning alarm system.

After grabbing the tubas, they ignored all of the other instruments and even computers. “We’re shocked and saddened,” Gonzalez says. “We have five tuba students, and now we only have one sousaphone and one concert tuba. They have to trade off.”

Police and band directors suspect that the trend is due to the rising popularity of “banda,” a brass-based form of traditional Mexican music with similarities to German polka. Banda heavily relies on the tuba sound. These groups often perform at parties for large sums of money.

Another theory held by some is that people are stealing the tubas for scrap metal.

In under a year, more than 23 tubas have been stolen from at least eight different schools. At first, thefts were contained in Southeastern Los Angeles, where both budgets and campus security are low, but have since spread out to Orange County and even the affluent coastal community of Manhattan Beach.

Despite the two break-ins, Gonzalez and his students can do nothing but repair the doors and lock them. The Los Angeles Unified School District alerted schools of the trend via email, but no other security measures have been taken.

“There’s no way the high school has an extra $30,000 for tubas; budgets are as tight as it is,” Gonzalez says.

Thankfully, a few local businesses have agreed to sponsor a new tuba purchase for South Gate, but if the thefts continue around Southern California, there may be a rather bass-less marching season ahead this fall.

About the author

Elizabeth Geli

Elizabeth Geli is the assistant editor of Halftime Magazine and a journalist/communications professional in Southern California. Her 11 years at the University of Southern California (USC) Trojan Marching Band included time as a flute player, graduate teaching assistant, and student advocate. She holds a bachelor's degree in Print Journalism and master's degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) from USC.

Mary Karen Clardy

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