Tuba Thieves Swarm Southern California High Schools

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High schools across Southern California are being raided by thieves searching for a very specific and peculiar item—a tuba. Just last weekend Bell High School lost two King brass sousaphones, each valued at $6,000, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Band director Ligia Chaves-Rasas said that thieves got past “the best doors in the district” and cut the locks on the metal lockers. They eventually broke into Chaves-Rasas’ office, where the sousaphones and uniforms are stored.

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Brass sousaphones—smaller tubas that are used in marching bnads—have been stolen all over campuses in Southern California over the last few months. Why would thieves be more interested in a musical instrument rather than computers and other high-end electronic equipment?

The New York Times reports that teachers are pointing to the popularity of banda, a traditional Mexican music form, in which tubas serve as the anchor. Tuba players in these bands are paid sometimes double what the other banda musicians play, and Chaves-Rasas says she’s had students come to her asking to learn tuba so they can be in a banda, adding, “people will pay top dollar for a banda with a sousaphone player.”

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Among the many schools that have experienced theft of these instruments, Compton’s Centennial High School had eight of their tubas stolen last October, while Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach had four tubas (each worth $5,000) stolen over New Year’s Eve weekend. Even worse, Sycamore Junior High School in Anaheim saw all its band instruments disappear, and were left with a $25,000 loss.

Sycamore’s music teacher Rich Gordon told the Times that it really hurt the class to have students sitting without anything to play. “And we can’t perform a concert if we don’t have any tubas.”

The thieves are not only stealing schools’ instruments, but also our likelihood of hearing Curb Your Enthusiasm theme covers, and that’s a real travesty.