By Manuela Yim, 17, Fairfax HS
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The new Fairfax High band marches into a lunchtime pep rally before the opening football game, where they pumped up the crowd.
Photo courtesy of the Fairfax HS yearbook staff

At other schools, they are labeled “band geeks.” But at Fairfax High, because the school hasn’t had one in almost 20 years, being part of the new band carries a sense of respect.

During its debut at the school’s opening football game in September, the new band got more cheers from the crowd than the football team. They played the fight song and when the cheerleaders yelled “Hey band, how do you feel?” they cheered back “We feel good, oh we feel so good!” The drums and trumpets pumped up the crowd, even for those who had no idea what was going on in the game. The team was losing, but at least the entertainment was good.

The bleachers were filled with more than just the usual crowd of friends of football players, a couple parents and a few stragglers with nothing better to do. It was hard to find a seat because so many people had turned out for the band.

The pep rally at lunch got everyone hyped up. Even a news crew from NBC Channel 4 was there. Like any big event at the school, everyone was talking about it and saying how good the band sounded. The teachers were saying the band was sensational and “explosive.” Everyone wanted to see how the band would do that night. They also had high expectations that the team would win.

“I feel like we’re making history! This is big,” Josh Kwon, a senior in the marching band, said.

Another senior, Yvette Moreira, said the band “brings a lot of school spirit that we’ve been lacking,” and that “it’s going to make my senior year an even greater experience.”

The music program was cut in the 80s

So why was the band missing for almost 20 years? As is common with public schools in Los Angeles, Fairfax lost funding for many extracurricular activities, including the band, in 1988. This led the school to sell its instruments and close the doors to the music department.

Then last year, an anonymous alumnus donated money to the school’s music department, which paid for the hiring of two new music teachers and gave back something that had been denied Fairfax for a long time.

But not everyone had heard of the new band. Over the summer, some of the drummers would practice in the parking lot, and the students getting out of summer school would stop in their tracks to watch. Some people thought we were getting a drum line. Some thought it was the Korean drumming class. They weren’t expecting a full band, color guard and all.

Mr. Vizcarra, the new music teacher who re-started the band, said “I feel very excited and proud. I could never have imagined it would have been this big.”

The faculty was supportive as well. Mr. Zubiate, our new principal, said, “The [marching band] shows extreme dedication on everyone’s part. It’s also a good story and we’re at a high school that is put together by effort. The kids and teachers worked so hard.”

Since the majority of the students in the marching band are freshmen, the band offered a way for them to get involved with their new school. Angela Avila, a ninth grader who plays the xylophone in the band, said she joined because she felt it would be an “interesting experience.”

“It’s fun and I like the school better now,” Angela said.

Even the parents at the  game were excited. Penny Horseman, Fairfax alumnus and mom of basketball player Chris Horseman, said, “I am absolutely astounded. I’ve always known Fairfax had someone who can play music. Now finally, a band!”

What’s even more astounding is that 80 percent of the students in the band didn’t know how to play an instrument before the summer. But they were quick to learn. During the summer, they all had to go to band camp for 11 hours a day, six days a week for two weeks and practice, practice, practice.

They practice daily to improve their sound

This doesn’t mean they magically transformed after their first game into an experienced band. A month after the game, they still had to put in extra work. Mr. Vizcarra said one of the challenges has been “getting them in here to practice” every day after school until six.

Also, as all good marching bands must march in style, another challenge for them is raising enough money for uniforms. For now, they have to stick with plain red T-shirts.

Despite the varsity football team’s 37-6 loss to Locke High opening night, the Lions can hold their heads, or rather, their instruments up high, for the first time in two decades.