Like many observers of the Stansbury High School band brouhaha, we were skeptical when Tooele County commissioners passed the issue back to the school district, band boosters, and affected residents last month to work out a compromise. After all, a battle between those who favor 6 a.m. band practices and those who oppose them had been simmering for two and a half years. Wasn’t this exactly the type of intractable issue commissioners were supposed to decide?
In the end, however, the decision reached last week to allow the band to march under the football field lights without playing at 6 a.m. then start the music at 7 a.m. was a reasonable compromise that won’t delight either side in the debate but gives both a bit of what they wanted.
The SHS band issue has captured the interest of the entire county. Although from afar it might have seemed that people were dickering over a single hour — to start practices at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. — the debate went to the heart of how a community defines itself. To many Tooele and Grantsville residents who have grown up with the tradition of early morning band practices, the idea of SHS neighbors complaining about the band was galling — a repudiation of the tolerance a true multigenerational town is supposed to show its youth. From this perspective, Stansbury was seen as a loose confederation of newcomers that lacked the cohesiveness to call themselves a community.
Commissioners could have sided with this perspective, forcing Stansbury to adhere to the long-standing — though not codified in law — practices of the THS and GHS bands. And some band boosters would still like to see that happen, as they push a petition drive that would put a 6 a.m. noise ordinance change before all county voters this fall.
However, we don’t agree that this is an issue that should be decided on a countywide basis. Stansbury is not Grantsville or Tooele, and Stansbury residents should have the right to define their community as they see fit. If that means later start times for the band, arbitrary conditions like no tubas on Thursdays, or no high school marching band at all, that’s fine, so long as consensus, compromise and local control guide the decision making.
As Stansbury continues to grow, its differences from the much older towns of Tooele County may become more pronounced. But that’s something to be encouraged and celebrated, not tamped down upon by conformist notions of what a “good” community must be.