William Penn Senior High School band director Kevin Crawmer simply says he is "overwhelmed."

Just months ago, he was leading the Bearcat marching band -- current and past students included -- on what either was going to be a funeral dirge or a triumphant march from Penn Park down to York City School District's administration building.

The music program was on the chopping block because of the budget deficit going into this school year, and the school board was seriously considering eliminating band, choir, art and other programs.

Crawmer had a tear in his eye as he marched down Pershing Avenue, thinking of all the support York City's music program had received that day.

As it turned out, the board was behind them, and the music program was saved.

Helpers: But the district said they couldn't pay for some of the assistants the music program needed, including the color guard sponsor, the jazz band director, and the assistant marching band directors at the middle and at the high school.

Cue the music boosters.

After an agreement between the teachers' union and the district allowed the extracurricular position stipends to be reduced by several hundred dollars, the boosters were able to raise enough money to pay for the assistants for this school year. The school board approved the assistants' stipends in September.

"We didn't want them to have to do this for nothing. It's out of their personal time," music booster president Tina Heilman said.

The boosters, who help support the entire district's music program, held a music fundraising show this summer at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts center and had Mayor Kim Bracey and Chad Gracey of the band Live tend bar for a night to help raise money for the program. Donations poured in from all over in all amounts, too, Heilman said.

"People don't realize how much just $1 helped," she said. "It blew us all away."

"I'm overwhelmed at the amount of support. It's not just the current students and our parents. It's the alumni, it's the community," Crawmer added.

Crawmer also serves as the jazz band director, while Laura Baum is the assistant marching band director at the middle and high schools, and Yolanda Beattie oversees the color guard. Without Baum and Beattie, Crawmer said his job would be nearly impossible as he tries to teach 43 marching band members.

Effects: The financial crisis, even with a relatively positive ending, did have an impact on the program. Crawmer said York City lost the participation of some students who had been in the music program for a long time, but didn't like the uncertainty of its future.

"It hurts, it really does," he said of losing students because of budget woes.

Music is "more than just entertainment" and is a needed part of school, he said. Research by supporters showed the valedictorian and/or salutatorian from nearly every York City graduating class in the past 20 years has participated in the music program. And music participation helps give students motivation to come to school, Crawmer said.

But even with the donations for this year, next year will be another battle to maintain the program, said Heilman and Crawmer.

"We're hoping something happens in Harrisburg or here in the city so that we don't have to continue to do this every year," Crawmer said.

-- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdis patch.com