'All they took were tubas'

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The Santa Monica High School marching band's tuba section is shown performing on Jan. 7, 2006, in Santa Monica, California. Recent tuba burglaries have left some high schools rushing to find replacements before Saturday's marching band competition.

"Southern California high schools are losing some of their oom-pa," writes AP after the L.A. Times ran a story detailing a rash of recent tuba burglaries at area schools.

The latest theft was at South Gate High School. Music teacher Ruben Gonzalez Jr. describes to the Times' Sam Quinones how thieves broke into his band room and took $13,000 worth of tubas.

"All they took were tubas," Gonzalez told Quinones.

Earlier at Compton's Centennial High thieves stole eight sousaphones, which are marching tubas worn over the shoulder. And last week someone stole the final tuba at Huntington Park High School. The other was stolen earlier in the year.

Teachers think the cause could be the surge in popularity of traditional Mexican "banda music," which prominently features tubas. The big brass instruments can fetch thousands even if they're old and dented.

And now the clock is ticking for the tuba players at high schools that have been victimized. The Times reports:

Strapped for cash and running low on school spirit, victimized bands were scrambling to replace their instruments before attending Saturday's 38th annual Marching Band and Drill Team Championships at East Los Angeles College.

As he waited to take the field during the competition, Huntington Park High student Ramon Olivares hoisted a King tuba the school had borrowed for the day.

"I got used to playing different tubas," Olivares said. "I was playing one; they stole it. I switched to our second tuba. They stole it. Now I've got this one. I played it for the first time yesterday."

No arrests have been made in the thefts.

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