South Gate High officials pegged the loss of their five tubas at $30,000. They are trying to raise donations from the community to replace them.
The tubas favored by banda players are the lighter sousaphones, which marching band members carry. But in some instances, thieves have also been grabbing the heavier ones used by concert orchestras.
In their cases, those big tubas can weigh as much as 50 pounds, making them arguably the most difficult instruments to steal, after the piano and the bass drum.
But even before banda music's rise in popularity, tuba dealers say, the instrument's high cost has always made it vulnerable to theft.
Four years ago, somebody stole 14 sousaphones from North Carolina Central University's marching band, and the group had to borrow instruments to take part in a competition.
"They are instruments that are expensive and that are in demand," said USC's Kun. "In another context, it might be an electric guitar or a really tricked-out synthesizer. But because we're talking about Southern California, it's a tuba."
Online: YouTube videos of banda music
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