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Fairfax High School Band Takes National Spotlight

Four-time Virginia Honor Band Invited to Prestigious Festival in Indianapolis

The Fairfax High School (FHS) Wind Ensemble has been invited to the Music for All National Festival in Indianapolis. The festival, which takes place March 14-16, accepted only 16 bands from across the country this year. The students, led by instructor Alan P. Johnson, will perform for judges, receive comprehensive evaluations and attend master classes with industry professionals. Mr. Johnson will accompany 66 students for the three-day festival.

The Wind Ensemble is one of many FHS performance bands, including the Fairfax Jazz, Drumline, marching bands and concert bands. For Johnson, managing almost 200 students and multiple groups is just a typical day in the office, even if that means a Saturday, which he will work almost every weekend from January through May. Johnson is working with students to prepare for regional competitions, day-long retreats for both FHS and Lanier Middle School, and the festival in Indianapolis.

“Mr. Johnson has brought a wonderful energy to the FHS band program, which is growing quickly with many students coming in each year from the very strong program at Lanier,” says Katy O’Grady, a parent of a senior band member and president of the FHS Band Boosters. “His musical expectations of the students are very high, but he also appreciates that band is just one part of a student’s high school experience – many band students also participate in sports and other extracurriculuars.”

For Johnson, it all comes down to the kids. This year, he saw 29 of his student-musicians achieve All District Band. His pride is evident when he talks about the many accolades his students have won, but he seems most proud of the character of the students in his program. “I really appreciate how hard these kids work – they are just as great kids as they are musicians,” Johnson says. “There is a great sense of community and culture here at Fairfax.”

In 2012, FHS performed at James Madison University and Mr. Johnson was pleased to see a number of alumni come to cheer on their former band. Many spoke with Johnson after the performance to tell him how much being a part of the Marching Rebels meant to them in high school. “It was important for the (current) students to see this program is bigger than any one of them individually, that they are part of something great that they can take with them after they leave, even if they do not continue with music in a formal setting.”

O’Grady agrees. Her son, who began playing trumpet in the fifth grade at Providence Elementary and now takes Music and Computer Technology through Fairfax Academy, has developed an academic and personal interest in music. But perhaps more importantly, he found a strong social community in a large school. “Mr. Johnson’s band room is always open to the students,” says Ms. O’Grady.

For now, Johnson is focusing on preparing his students for Indianapolis while supporting all the regional and state competitions in the winter. Parents and the Band Boosters are busy fundraising for the trip. If you are interested in donating to alleviate the cost, please visit

“Mr. Johnson and his team have created a great program at Fairfax High School – something we are all proud of,” says Peter Noonan, Superintendent of the City of Fairfax Schools. “The City of Fairfax School Board and staff wish them the best on their trip and are happy to help support their fundraising efforts.”

This article can also be found on the Fairfax City Patch.

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