MCYA Board response to Philadelphia Inquirer article

A recent media report focusing on instructors who taught at various national drum and bugle corps organizations despite having matters of concern in their backgrounds named Dennis Laorenza as among these individuals. Laorenza worked in a part-time role as a trumpet instructor for the Music City Drum and Bugle Corps during the 2018 season. The Music City Youth in the Arts (MCYA) board of directors voted in October to not renew Laorenza’s employment.

Following the end of the 2018 DCI performance season, the MCYA board of directors learned Laorenza’s Florida teacher certification had been surrendered and permanently revoked in June 1996. Laorenza successfully completed a mandatory criminal background check before the Music City Drum Corps hired him. This disciplinary action did not appear in Laorenza’s standard pre-employment background check.

Music City Youth in the Arts, the nonprofit governing body for the Music City Drum Corps, places as a top priority the health and safety of the participants within its programs. This includes making every effort to ensure the careful review of its staff and volunteers. Music City views this report, with the scrutiny and calls for greater accountability it will bring, as a constructive reminder for us and every organization that works in youth development.

Music City was founded ten years ago with the mission of providing young people a fun, family-oriented opportunity for experiential education in music and performing arts. Today, as then, we remain committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for all who choose to participate within our programs. In order to fulfill that promise, the MCYA Board of Directors strives for continual improvement in our organization’s operations, policies and procedures.

Within just this past year, Music City has started or implemented a number of actions designed to protect our participants and enhance their experiences within our programs. Some of those actions include:

• Adopting a pre-employment application that screens individuals for revoked teaching or medical licensure.

• Adopting a new mandatory agreement with controls to more rigorously monitor safe staff and student interactions.

• Recruiting new members to the board of directors with special expertise in youth development.

• Implementing new whistle-blower and reporting systems for participants and others.

• Strengthening our criminal background-check policies for all staff and volunteers.

• Adding greater levels of review to hiring processes.

• Adding mandatory training for staff and participants defining proper conduct and identifying appropriate avenues to redress conduct issues.

• A top-to-bottom review of all policies related to participant safety, personal data, communications, harassment and sexual abuse and issues related specifically to safeguarding minors.

The allegations and incidents of inappropriate conduct and harmful acts involving youth members of organizations within the drum corps activity are tragic. This conduct should never occur within any youth development organization. Music City Youth in the Arts condemns all such actions and offers its support to the victims. Our board of directors pledges its resources, efforts and sincere dedication to ensuring our organization continues to address vital policies and practices and grow as a place for young people to receive positive, safe, life-changing experiences.