Herndon High School Band celebrates 75 years with free concert

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes 75 years of Herndon High School Band (Part 1)

The Herndon High School Band is celebrating its 75th anniversary in Fairfax County, Virginia.

You can join The Pride of Herndon for a free concert in the auditorium this Thursday at 7 p.m.

“We would love to have people from all over come celebrate with us,” Band Director Kathleen Jacoby told WTOP.

Teen band members will team with adult alumni to perform the diamond anniversary composition “Like Diamonds, Shine,” written by Andrew Sharrock in a special commission by the Herndon High School Band Parent Association.

“It’s really fun,” Drum Major Jenna Ainge told WTOP. “You can say hi to old friends and it’s especially cool when you meet someone you don’t know. You’re showing them the ropes even though they’re much older than you, but you know the music so you’re teaching them … I grew up in this area and started playing when I was 11. My mother loved the French horn and thought that it would sound pretty. Ever since then I just kept going with it.”

In addition to the free public concert, the walls outside of the auditorium will also display old Herndon band artifacts, news articles and photographs, as the hallways echo with throwback audio clips from classic concerts.

“We’re going to have a big reception for alumni, current community members and family members, anybody who’s been part of the program, before the concert, then we’re going to have a bunch of photographs, sound recordings and we have some great record samples from the ’60s that we’re going to be playing as people come in,” Jacoby said. “Following the concert, we have display cases of every uniform of the band all the way back to 1947.”

Founded in 1947, the band was established by parents and citizens who recruited Vladimir Johnson, a Russian interpreter and part-time music teacher in D.C. At the time of the first rehearsal, most of the students had never seen, let alone played a musical instrument, yet the band’s first performance was a short eight weeks later.

“Marching band was the standard back in the ’40s, coming home from World War II, trying to recover and come up with community function as a way to come together,” Jacoby said. “It started as a Herndon club. There were actually two other high schools in Fairfax that petitioned for music teachers, but Herndon was the first to win a contract with the school board to full-time employ a high-school music teacher. Their charge was to teach band.”

Over the years, the band program has grown from the initial group of 40 musicians and six majorettes to almost 200 students. This year, the band program includes 115 students who participate in Marching Band, Symphonic Band, Symphonic Winds, Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Band, Indoor Drumline and Indoor Guard.

Band directors have included Johnson (1947-1958), Fritz Velke (1958-1964), James Swiney (1964-1968), Larry Willis (1968-1971), George Duman (1971-1978), Richard Bergman (1978-2008) and Jacoby (2008-present).

“The band director I followed, Rich Bergman, had been at Herndon for 30 years, so between us, there have only been three band directors in 50 years,” Jacoby said. “Herndon is a unique community because even though we have the resources of Fairfax County, we have a very small-town feel and a very close-knit community … Our homecoming is on a Saturday instead of a Friday, we have a parade, everyone comes out, the mayor comes out.”

The current band members love it when nostalgic residents ask about their performances.

“Every time I go to my allergist, the lady who signs me in was in the color guard with Bergman, so every time I walk in, she’s like, ‘Jenna, how’s the band?’ and we’ll talk about band,” Ainge said. “It’s a very unique sense of community and it’s really motivating. People really enjoy it and enjoy the marching band, and that’s what keeps us going.”

Find more information on the concert here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes 75 years of Herndon High School Band (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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