Pricey tubas stolen from another area high school band
Another Los Angeles-area high school marching band has had its tubas stolen.
San Fernando High School, in the city of San Fernando, had its only two marching-band tubas – known as sousaphones – stolen over the Jan. 26-27 weekend, said Sergio Alonso, the school’s music director.
The brass Conn sousaphones were worth roughly $6,000 each.
Alonso said the thieves broke into one of two band rooms at the school, using a crowbar. In the first, they found only string instruments – guitars and violins – yet stole none of those.
They then broke into the second band room and passed up trumpets, saxophones, percussion instruments and a marimba.
“They could have taken all that stuff, but they only took the two sousaphones,” said Alonso.
Tuba thieves have hit several Southland high schools in the last year or so. Whittier, South Gate, Huntington Park, Fremont, Centennial (Compton), Jordan, Bell and Manhattan Beach high schools have each had several tubas stolen. Many of the tubas are valued at over $5,000 apiece. The thefts amount to a devastating blow to schools, which face slim budgets, and their bands, many of which are dependent on private funding.
Alonso said he also directs a mariachi group, which will likely have to put on concerts to raise money to buy new sousaphones for the band.
Instructors and musicians alike say the break-ins have to do with the enormous popularity of banda music – Mexican dance music using marching band instruments, and in which tubas play a central role.
Tuba players in banda music often make almost twice what the other musicians earn.
Alonso said he believes the tubas are either being used in bandas in Southern California, or are being taken down to Mexico, where tubas fetch sometimes double what they do in the United States.
"There's no other type of music ensemble in the L.A. area that uses [the] sousaphone except for banda," he said.
-- Sam Quinones
Photo: There has been a string of tuba thefts fom Los Angeles area high schools, including South Gate High, pictured, which has been broken into twice. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times