Rash of school tuba thefts continues as Bell High loses two
Two more tubas have been stolen from an area high school, extending a rash of thefts of the expensive instruments at Southern California campuses in recent months that instructors say is likely related to the popularity of Mexican banda music.
This time thieves hit Bell High School, which lost two King brass sousaphones -- marching-band tubas -- sometime over the weekend, said Ligia Chaves-Rasas, the school’s band director.
The break-in was discovered Monday morning. Each instrument was valued at $6,000, she said.
The thieves cut the locks on numerous metal lockers in the school’s band room, apparently searching for the sousaphones, she said. When they didn’t find any, they broke into Chaves-Rasas’ office, where the uniforms and tubas are stored under lock and key.
“We have the best doors in the district — the ones with the metal plates on the outside and no handles. They still got in,” she said. Cut locks were strewn around the band room.
The thieves stole only the two metal sousaphones and left two less-expensive fiberglass sousaphones and dozens of other instruments behind, she said.
As in other cases, no arrests have been made. It was unclear whether the school or the L.A. Unified School District has insurance to cover the theft.
The break-in follows burglaries at several other schools where tubas were stolen. South Gate, Fremont, Jordan and Huntington Park high schools have all lost tubas in burglaries in the last several months.
Compton's Centennial High School reported losing eight tubas in October.
Over the Christmas break, Sycamore Junior High School in Anaheim had all its band instruments stolen, including its tubas -- a loss valued at $25,000, school officials said.
Over the New Year’s weekend, Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach had four tubas stolen, each worth $5,000, school officials said.
Instructors have connected the rash of thefts to the popularity of banda, a dance music played with marching band instruments and anchored by tubas.
With the surge in banda’s popularity, tuba players have become sought-after and are paid more than -– sometimes even double -– what other banda musicians earn.
-- Sam Quinones
Photo: A tuba player at a backyard party. Credit: Sam Quinones / Los Angeles Times