Brookwood community supports band program
By Carole Townsend
Snellville – The students, parents and faculty of Brookwood High School are proud of the school’s band program, and rightfully so. The largest such program in the state, Brookwood High School’s band boasts 370 students in band classes.
The marching band consists of 266 students; the jazz and concert bands, winter guard and music technology round out the expansive program. While Brookwood is a large school, the total student population alone does not account for the large band program. “Our band program here is inclusive, not exclusive. Any student who has the desire to participate in marching band can do so. At other schools, students must audition for that opportunity,” said Laura Stanley, Brookwood High School’s Director of Bands. “Here, we say that all band members are first stringers.”
It is no small distinction that Brookwood’s band programs include any student who loves music and wants to participate. There is a reason for the policy, about which Stanley and Ben Risher, president of the Brookwood Band Association, are passionate. “We have great kids in the program. We are able to include so many students because of our strong student leadership,” Stanley said proudly. “When freshmen enter the program, the upper classmen open their arms and welcome them, teaching them how we do things. There is no hazing, no competition, among our band students.”
The 2015 Bronco Marching Band and audience members for the London Invitation Ceremony.
Leadership, school pride and teamwork are qualities that Brookwood High School band students learn in the pro gram. They are qualities that they take with them when they leave for college. And in many cases, they are the same qualities that they bring back to the Snellville community as adults. It is very common for Brookwood students to move back and settle in their hometown community, marry and have families of their own; very often, their children will participate in the high school’s band program, too. “It’s a virtuous cycle,” Risher said, adding that many parents stay on with the program even after their children have graduated high school, mentoring and assisting in any way they can. “There is a long tradition of parent and student involvement here.”
The Brookwood community benefits from the school’s band program, every bit as much as the students do. Community leaders are a valuable resource. It’s no surprise, then, that when folks in the community get the chance to help the band program, they are eager to do so. One of the ways that the community pitches in to help students in the program is the annual Taste of Brookwood event. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the fundraising event, and planners are looking forward to another successful affair.
Michelle Dickler, Vice President of the Band Association’s Ways and Means Committee, said that the March 19 event will have about 25 participating restaurants, and about 1200 members of the community will turn out to sample restaurant fare and socialize with their friends and neighbors. “It’s really become a social event that people look forward to every year,” said Dickler. At Taste of Brookwood, for the price of a ticket, patrons can sample foods from five different restaurants, and enjoy a drink and a dessert. “They are very generous with their samples, too,” said Stanley. “And in the past few years, the restaurants have really taken things up a notch. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us this year.”
During the event, all three jazz ensembles and the winter guard will perform. A silent auction, which serves as an additional fundraiser, will take place during the three-hour event. Auction items include sports memorabilia, crafts and other handmade items, a gift certificate to New London School of Driving and more.
Funds raised from the Taste of Brookwood event, as well as other fundraisers held throughout the year, are critical to the success of the band program. Even though Brookwood’s band program and classes are offered as part of the public school extracurricular activities, there is not enough money from the school, county or state to provide for all of the needs. “Band instruments can be very expensive, so even though a student may really want to play a certain instrument, his parents may not be to afford it,” said Stanley. “For example, we have twenty-one tuba players, but the school only has the money to provide ten tubas.” Fundraisers help to pay for instruments and equipment, repairs, and last (but certainly not least), trips that are life-changing opportunities for students.
In December, the Brookwood High School marching band is traveling to London, England, to play in the New Year’s Day parade. The only school in the state of Georgia that has been invited for 2017 to march in this prestigious event, Brookwood will be representing the entire state. “It’s a wonderful opportunity, as well as a great responsibility,” Stanley said, adding that the students are counting on the community’s support in order to be able to make the trip. A portion of the proceeds from Taste of Brookwood will go toward the London trip.
Right: The 2015 Bronco Marching Band warming up before the Parent Performance at Western Carolina University. This is the final day of band camp.
Stanley’s passion for music and for her students is contagious. Sam Thomas, father of a Brookwood High School freshman band member, is quick to sing the Director’s praises. But Stanley will only take credit for inheriting a world-class program from former Director Rudy Wilson, who headed up the BHS band program for 28 years. “Under Mr. Wilson, this program developed pride, spirit and direction,” Stanley said. Retired now, Wilson still lives in the Brookwood community, and his reputation has made him somewhat of a celebrity among Broncos fans, band students, parents and faculty.
Excellence has defined the BHS band program for decades. The Bronco Marching Band has earned 9 Grand Championships and has participated in prestigious parades in Georgia, Washington, DC, Orlando (the Walt Disney World Magic Music Days), Hawaii and New York City. They have performed as halftime guests at Georgia Tech and twice, for the Atlanta Falcons. They have performed at pre-game ceremonies for the San Francisco Giants. The marching band, orchestra and jazz ensembles have accepted numerous invitations to festivals and conferences over the years, reinforcing their reputation for excellence.
A source of great community pride, the BHS band program depends on the support of businesses and families in the community. Participating restaurants in Taste of Brookwood do not pay a fee to be featured; rather, they donate the food so that all funds raised go straight to the band program. The event is staffed primarily by students and parents. Both chain restaurants and individually-owned establishments offer foods at Taste of Brookwood: Mexican, Asian, Italian, barbecue and traditional American cuisine will be available to patrons. Restaurant owners and managers who wish to participate and have not yet registered may contact Michelle Dickler: firstname.lastname@example.org