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FHS Band Program Makes Some Noise

Fairfax High’s award-winning band program shines in 2011.

UPDATE (11:43 a.m.): Correction made to description of Esprit de Corps Award. 

The first month of fall is under wraps for 2011 and the Fairfax High School marching band has provided a superb soundtrack for Friday night football. However, the band has much more on its schedule than football games.

The Rebels’ band program consists of four parts: marching band, guard, symphonic and concerts band. FHS band director Alan Johnson and his 100-plus musicians travel around the region from Annapolis to James Madison University to compete against other programs across the state and nation. And so far, the beat of the Marching Rebels is pumping strong.

Fairfax has completed two of the season’s five competitions and most recently won first place in several categories in Haymarket and took home the grand daddy of them all with Grand Champion Honors at the Battlefield Battle Royale on Oct. 1.

In September, the Rebels won awards for each section and the “Esprit de Corps Award” at the USSBA Marine Corps Invitational in Annapolis, Md. This special honor is subjective, not based on scoring, and the judges gave it to FHS because they were impressed with the “professionalism and pride” the musicians displayed during the competition.

“It’s an award that the judges conferred amongst themselves about patriotism and through subjective observation,” said Johnson. “It wasn’t like part of the show was to win the award; it was kind of a nice little bonus. The students here at Fairfax really handle themselves well and I was certainly as proud of their behavior as I was of their performance, which was excellent.”

Band is structured, just as any varsity sport would be, with Johnson acting as head coach and two drum majors, Becca Welke and Jane Lee, acting as assistant coaches to the other musicians. Each section also has a leader similar to a football captain on defense or offense. Johnson said anyone from the program may join the marching band, which has 114 members including color guard this season.

“The best thing about it, is that it has members from all three of our sit-down groups,” he said. “Anyone is able to play in the marching band and we have freshmen through seniors. There are so many student leadership-type opportunities.”

When it comes to competitions, the director said he prefers to set a goal of holding himself and his students “to an extremely high standard of excellence” in order to benefit the band as a whole, as opposed to focusing on just winning.

“We’re being judged by a subjective panel of seven people who just might not like what were doing even if we’re doing it really well," he said. "The competition part takes care of itself, if you are doing it the right way.”

Travel and accommodation for more than 100 people can get costly, so the band participates in fundraising throughout the year. Each member goes door to door for “Tag Day,” asking for donations to help them compete, and the program has a booster club dedicated exclusively to helping the band. Johnson previously taught at South County and Chantilly High School and has 14 years of experience directing and says his first year at Fairfax has been incredible.

“I really enjoy the climate here and the students and parents have been exceedingly welcoming to me and the kids can really play,” he said. “I left a program I was really fond of but I knew this could end up being something very special and I think we’ve taken a few really nice steps towards that.”

Fairfax performs next at the JMU Parade of Champions at James Madison University on Saturday. The music starts at 9:45 a.m.

For more information on the FHS band program, click here.

Jon Burks October 21, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Thanks so much for this article. The work these kids and Mr Johnson (and his staff) have put in and continue to put in to perfect their show is quite amazing and reflect an exemplary level of commitment and dedication. And if you think marching band looks easy, try running backwards on a diagonal line to a specific spot on the field, all while playing the trombone (just ask Amir)! There's also the synergy you see at the football games between the band, the cheerleaders and the dance team as they all pull together to support the football team. The band is a critical part of the whole game night experience. But if you really want to see what the band can do, you need to see them in their element and attend a competition. That's when you get a sense of just how special this group really is. Thanks, Patch, for giving everyone else a glimpse of what us supporters of the Marching Rebels have always known. This band rocks!
Todd C Smith October 21, 2011 at 07:45 PM
Thank you all for reading! I played alto saxaphone from fouth grade through middle school. When i remember attending Herndon High football games, the marching band's music immediately pops into my head. I do apologize and admit I was unaware of the previous FHS director's accomplishments. I should have looked further into that. The musicians and director have done an outstanding job this year and i enjoyed writing about them. Have a great weekend and thanks again... Todd
Peggy Aderton October 22, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Thank you so much for featuring the FHS Bands. Having heard them every afternoon practicing (rain and shine), their music bouncing off the walls of Fairfax High, I was most impressed with their halftime performance in uniform at the football game. Movement and musicality were outstanding and captivating. Over the past several years the students have put their hearts, minds and souls into learning and working hard, and through the testings, have come out gold! They show true Rebel Pride. Thanks again for the feature.
Beth Johnson October 23, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Last night, the band took 1st place in class at JMU Parade of Champions. Also grabbing Best percussion, Best Music, and Best General Effects. Third year in a row! Way to go Marching Rebels!
Todd C Smith October 23, 2011 at 09:12 PM
That is great, Beth! They have a special program over at Fairfax and everyone should be proud. Thanks to everyone for reading! Todd

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