Bus Shortage: How it Affected VAPA

Festival, or assessment day, has always been a huge deal to VAPA students. What typically goes into festival performances are months of practice on pieces picked by the directors to be judged for a grade. The ratings the students receive from the judges could be Superior, Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor. Students usually shoot for a unanimous Superior rating, which means they did perfectly. 

Unfortunately, VAPA students from North and other RUSD schools altogether were not able to travel to their festival performances because of the recent bus shortage. After traveling to festivals for many years with their ensembles, band, and choir students were very confused and upset as to why they could not attend. 

My students were upset and vocalized that when we talked about our bus situation. But my students know I will bend over backward if I have to to give them the opportunities they deserve and have worked hard for. I assured them I would make it happen somehow and they trusted me. We all just had to take it one day at a time as we got closer to the original festival date, and then 24 hours before the festival, I gave them the final notice that we for sure would not be getting a bus.” rations Choir director, Ms. Hilland. 

It is heart-shattering to hear that many choir students were upset to hear that they could not be properly transported to their festival location, therefore canceling their appearance at the festival entirely. It leads to much disappointment from all the students, especially after working hard to make their songs sound amazing. The situation with the choir was also very similar to the band’s, another group here at North that was also unable to travel to their festival due to the lack of flexibility in the transportation program they have for RUSD. 

“There were some students that expressed disappointment with the situation. Students work to perfect the music specifically for this assessment day, and when something out of our control makes it impossible to go, it leads to a lot of frustration,” explains Band Director, Mr. Jackson. 

The thing is, there is nothing the advisor, nor the students can do, it is just a very sad and unlucky situation. 

While the students’ feelings about this situation are very important as they were the ones working hard to perfect their music, the advisors were also very upset not to be able to see their students succeed in their performances. 

I am just really bummed that we never ended up getting a bus. But, I will say our office staff, particularly Paige Healy and Monique Vidrio were incredible. They remained so positive and supportive as I continued to check in with them every few days to see if a bus became available. I don’t think, at the end of the day, there was anything THEY [the district] could have done differently. Honestly, maybe if I submitted my paperwork 9 weeks in advance instead of 8? Transportation runs on a first come/first served basis. I don’t think that should change. I just think I got REALLY unlucky with the festival date being a busy day for transportation. Their drivers were maxed out.” reflects Hilland.

We have been to the district festival for 51 years, and this was the break in that record. It was disappointing to miss out on playing at RCC’s theater, and not being able to show the rest of the district what we accomplished… As I understand the situation, there are people in the district that are supposed to reserve the buses for the day to be used for the district bands and orchestras. They did not do this, however, and there were buses used for other field trips on that date. This is the same as not having buses available to take sports teams to their games.” says Jackson. 

Both Hilland and Jackson, being in the same situation gained a very bad case of unluckiness, as both of them turned in bus request forms plenty of time in advance. Also, the busses that day specifically, are supposed to be reserved for bands and choirs as Jackson explained, since, most RUSD schools travel to the same festival no matter the school. Some other schools found their way to the festival, however, it is a shame that North could not travel to theirs, breaking a record of 51 years as Jackson said. While it is much of the control of the district, it brings up the question if Hilland or Jackson came up with a solution to their missed opportunity. 

I am happy to report I was able to get in touch with the president of the Southern CA Vocal Association and she was willing to allow me to put on a make-up festival here at North! It was a very stressful process even just trying to get a hold of someone on the board of SCVA, but once I was able to get in touch with them, we were able to get judges out to our campus and make it happen. I am even happier to report that both Chamber Singers and Bel Canto received Superior ratings- the highest rating SCVA offers! So all in all, this process caused me a great deal of stress and frustration, but we still made it happen and our choirs knocked it out of the park!” celebrates Hilland. 

“I planned a concert instead and hired judges to give us our assessment rating. I also entered the band into another festival on May 6. These two replacement events cost our boosters over $3,500 to provide an experience that we missed in RUSD, and I believe the expense should be covered by RUSD.” reports Jackson. 

It is very relieving to know that both of the directors found a way to accommodate the students and still give them a way to have a festival of their own. Congratulations to Ms. Hilland and her students for getting Superior ratings for both of her groups, it is fascinating! It is very inspiring to see that Ms. Hilland made it all work out for her students in the end, despite the stress and frustration. In Jackson’s case, it is also very relieving to see he found a way to make the festival happen for his students as well. Good luck to his band as they travel to their festival on May 6th!