Band director won’t have to face the music |

Band director won’t have to face the music

by Sheila Gardner

All in all, it’s been a pretty good week for Douglas High School music director Bill Zabelsky.

Saturday, the DHS Fighting Tiger Marching Band won the coveted Sweepstakes Award in the Nevada Day Parade for the eighth year in a row, and on Monday, Zabelsky found out he was no longer up on charges of disturbing the peace.

“Because of all the notoriety, the band was under a lot of pressure to repeat as Sweepstakes champs,” Zabelsky said Tuesday. “I’m very, very proud of the group – knowing that the eyes and ears of the community were upon them – that they were able to earn the Sweepstakes award.”

Zabelsky was cited for disturbing the peace on Oct. 24 after a 6:30 a.m. band practice on the Douglas High School football field. Residents of the neighboring Westwood subdivision called sheriff’s investigator Rick Brown, also a Westwood homeowner, to complain about the early morning tuneup. Brown, who was off duty at the time, issued the citation.

On Monday, after an outpouring of support from people who wanted to know why the sheriff’s department was picking on the band, law enforcement officials dropped the charge.

Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini and District Attorney Scott Doyle met Monday and dismissed the citation after meeting with Superintendent Pendery Clark and complainant Brown. They came up with a plan that the band won’t start practice until 7 a.m. and the high school would notify neighbors in advance.

n In the dark. It’s an agreement in which Zabelsky says he was, well, left in the dark. In fact, as of Tuesday, he hadn’t received official notification that he was no longer a wanted man.

“I’m relieved that we, the band, can concentrate on making music. However, I am miffed at the fact that neither the sheriff’s department or the school administration has let me know officially that the charge was dropped. I’m also miffed that I was not included in the agreement and nobody asked my opinion and I’ll be the one who has to carry it out,” he said.

Zabelsky wanted to assure people that he wasn’t serving up “sour grapes.” He said he’s concerned about losing 30 minutes of time crucial to practicing, packing up the 80-member band and making it to Reno on time in a school bus that can’t travel faster than 55 mph.

“It’s a federal law that the school bus can only go 55 mph even if everybody else is going 70 mph,” he said. “Even if all the kids were on time and we started at 7 a.m., we wouldn’t get back in the band room until 7:25 a.m. Then we have to load everything on the buses and go to Reno, and the kids need time to get ready once we get there.”

But, Zabelsky said, band members would give it their best shot.

“Once again, we want to thank the community for all their support,” he said. “We will truly try to maintain our reputation as the ‘Pride of the Carson Valley.'”

While band members were basking in community support and the Nevada Day victory, Sheriff Pierini was facing the music of a different tempo.

He was fielding telephone calls and messages from critics who believed that the DCSO filed the complaint against the band, even though investigator Brown acted on his own time.

But Pierini said that’s not the reason charges were dismissed.

n No politics. “I didn’t react to the politics of the situation,” Pierini said. “When I was notified of the event, I was dissatisfied over the action taken. The right thing to do is come up with a solution without the criminal justice system involved. We treat this like everything else. It needs to be talked out and have a compromise. There are administrative remedies available to correct school problems that occasionally arise. This approach needs to be exhausted prior to tying up the criminal justice system,” Pierini said.

Pierini defended investigator Brown’s right as a citizen to file a complaint.

“I appreciate Rick being flexible and understanding,” Pierini said. “This is the best avenue to take.”

He said he hoped people realized that the sheriff’s department didn’t initiate the complaint.

“As much as this department is behind youth in our community – 110 percent – the last thing I want to do is have a black mark over this,” Pierini said. “I hope people take the focus off this event and start looking at what we’re trying to do.”

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