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Fairfax changes its tune with new band director

By Aaron Blevins, 11/01/2012

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The sound of music is again filling the air of Fairfax High School’s football stadium, as the high school has hired a replacement to fill the void left behind after band director Ray Vizcarra accepted a position at Beverly Hills High School.

Robin L. Holguin is bringing the music back to Fairfax High School after the former director switches districts. (photo by Aaron Blevins)

Robin L. Holguin was hired last month as the school’s new band director, and last Friday, the band performed at a football game for the first time this year. The timing was fitting, as Fairfax was celebrating its homecoming.

“It was a relief to all and just a wonderful experience,” said assistant principal David Siedelman.

Holguin, a product of the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at Cal State Long Beach, will be the lead music director at a school for the first time in her career. Prior to Fairfax, she taught at La Serna High School and Pioneer High School in Whittier.

“I’m very familiar with the competitive band atmosphere as well as the symphonic approach that is traditionally in the spring,” Holguin said, adding that her previous experience prepared her for the band director position. “Even though those two high schools were rather close in proximity, they were very different as far as the student demographics, parent demographics and the basic skill sets of the students. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to work, almost concurrently, with both schools.”

Fluent on the clarinet and other woodwind instruments, she also plays the piano and has performed on the drum line with the Tournament of Roses Honor Band. However, as a music major, Holguin was required to learn all of the instruments she would be teaching.

She will instructing the band, orchestra and two general music classes at Fairfax. Holguin said she has been quite busy, but she is already enjoying her time at the high school.

“It’s very rewarding — whether it’s something small like watching a new student blossom into their new instrument,” she added.

Holguin said she is in the process of “getting everyone back on track and in the right state of mind.” She said her students have been receiving lessons from a long-term substitute teacher, and some practiced on their own. A few were also enrolled in private music lessons.

“They didn’t have band camp, and that’s where they start memorizing and learning,” Holguin said. “We’re on track for the traditional marching band experience. …We’ve got some small, what we call ‘pep tunes,’ as well as our school fight song.”

She said her students, whether in the band or string orchestra, have been eager to learn, improve and perform well. Holguin said the students are not afraid to ask for help and are “exceptionally” kind to one another. They’re also willing to work with what they’ve got, as evidenced by the band rehearsing outside on the school’s baseball diamond.

“And they couldn’t be happier,” the band director said. “It’s what they do. They’re doers.”

While the band won’t be competing this year, the concert season is approaching. Holguin said concert performances are a different discipline, as they are subtler and require a greater maturity level. However, she is convinced the students will accept the challenge.

“They take great pride in being entertainers and doing what they do,” Holguin added.

Though the band has earned city and regional accolades, she said Fairfax has a very small program. Holguin said she is aiming to expand the program by visiting feeder middle schools and attending community and alumni programs.

“I’m enjoying a lot of the new experiences,” she said. “Nothing compares to doing the real thing.”

Holguin is aware of the success Fairfax had under Vizcarra, and she hopes to build upon the foundation he created.

“Knowing that he was so loved by his students, I want to continue some of the traditions as well as build my own,” she said.

Siedelman said the school is excited to have a band director back at school. He said the band is crucial to not only the football team, but general student morale. Siedelman, who directly oversees the program, said that he and Holguin have set modest goals this year to get the band back where it was under Vizcarra.

“It’s always very challenging,” he said. “I think we’ve found a very solid music teacher.”

Vizcarra left the high school after receiving a reduction-in-force notice, which may have been rescinded. Several years of uncertainty about his job security led him to Beverly Hills.

However, Los Angeles Unified School District officials put a lot of effort into bringing a band director back to Fairfax, Siedelman said.

“Even if she does get displaced, the arts are such an important element of the education at Fairfax,” he said.

 

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