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What A Sour Note: Thieves Target Tubas In Southern California

Who knew the big horn could be so valuable?
Jonathan Daniel
Getty Images
Who knew the big horn could be so valuable?

The high prices they command on the black market and "Southern California's banda music craze" have combined to make tubas a hot property, the Los Angeles Times writes today.

Hot, that is, in the sense that there's been a recent "rash of unsolved tuba thefts at high schools in southeast Los Angeles County."

One school lost "an upright concert tuba and a silver sousaphone — or marching-band tuba — worth a combined $13,000." At another, eight sousaphones disappeared. Last week, someone stole Huntington Park High School's last tuba.

And how much are they worth? According to the Times, "a high-quality tuba can cost well more than $5,000, but even an old, dented tuba can sell for as much as $2,000, music teachers say."

As for banda, the Times says:

"Targeted schools are in an area with a very large Mexican immigrant population and where banda — dance music played by brass and woodwind instruments and anchored by the tuba — is king. Sierreno groups — with an accordion, guitar and tuba — have also become popular in recent years. Banda musicians say tuba players can earn more than $100 an hour."

Our friends Jasmine Garsd and Felix Contreras at the Alt.Latino blog did a post-Thanksgiving music-to-make-you-move podcast that included "Panama's Kafu Banton, Latin Fresh, Bossy Lion and marching band Banda Centenario" in a remix celebrating Panama's Independence Day.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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