Many high schoolers in band earn stereotypes as the geek, outcast, or over sexualized freak (Thanks, American Pie). As quick as people are to typecast band members with such labels, few seem to realize that these “geeks” have the potential to grow up to be composers, famous lead singers, or even directing bands themselves. Here, I give you a living, breathing example: This is the story of Kathryn Lotocky, former band member, current band director of Fort Lauderdale High School.
Natalya: What inspired you to start the band up again?
Kathryn: I was very excited to hear that FLHS [Fort Lauderdale High School] was going to reinstate a band program [there hasn’t been a continuous music program for about 5-6 years]. I knew that there were many talented students at the school, and that a healthy music program was needed! I had such an amazing experience in high school band and wanted to provide that opportunity for these kids. My band director in high school pushed me to become successful and proud in everything I threw myself into. I want these kids to reach and then surpass their potential. They can. They will. They just need a push.
What have you guys accomplished since then?
Well…There is honestly SO MUCH that these amazing students have accomplished in 7 months. Establishing a successful music program in a high school is much more than putting on a uniform and playing “ESPN” or a loud drum line piece. Maybe it’s just because I am big on positivism in my band room, but I felt a sense of accomplishment for this band when they lined up their cases at a performance. I wanted to cry I was so proud! Actually, they do make me tear up often… I’m not just touched by their actual performance, but often by their attitude and commitment to building this program. They work so hard and really want to be recognized as a performing ensemble.
What concerts have you guys performed in?
This year I accepted just about every performance opportunity we were invited to. Exposure was essential for both the students and the band program. We have performed at football games, pep rallies, at elementary schools, shopping center grand openings, business events, televised Sun Sentinel sports coverage for high school football, Relay for Life, parades (John Knox, Plantation Holiday, Ft Laud St Patricks Day), Universal Studios STARS parade, and even a Strykers soccer game half time gig. That was actually the first time I took my band [30 kids] on a trip to perform -Strykers game. It [the performance] was rough, but really put FLHS back in the music scene. I ended the marching season with 81 band and guard students.
What are your short term goals and what do you want to accomplish before the year is over?
My short term goals are to end this year on a good note (haha…no pun intended)! I really want these students to have a good spring concert, and enjoy a band banquet! We are preparing for next year’s marching season, so recruitment is key now. Currently I am renovating the band’s uniforms. It’s a process, but far less expensive than purchasing new ones. There are some last things that need to be done, but the kids and I are very excited to premiere them next season! Another short term goal is cleaning my office!
What are your long term goals?
I have told these kids that I will not leave them. Sadly, FLHS has a habit of getting to a promising state and then crashing back down to square one. I can’t let that happen. I won’t. These students deserve the same opportunities as other high schools (competition, recognition). Looking at the awards and pictures posted in the band room, FLHS had the top performing band in the county years and years ago. I think it’s time for us to take that back. It is going to take a while to get there, but the kids and I are ready to work. It’s not about having a big band, but a strong program.
What aspects do you want to improve about the band?
I would like to improve the support for the band from the student body and community. It’s coming with time. People have plenty of support, if they know about us. I accept performances and opportunities for these kids so they gain exposure. I know you can’t exactly improve support, but, when these kids hear people talking about them and congratulating them, it makes them feel good and want to keep performing! They need to hear how great they are. Encouragement. Support.
What has improved/would you say you’ve come a long way?
The students have come a long way. Many never playing an instrument before, and now reading music and teaching others! My band officers have also improved tremendously. I kind of threw them into positions and have been teaching them along the way. I’m not sure how much I have taught them, or that they have figured out on their own. I’m honestly going to say they have learned more from experience than me. I encourage that. After all, this is their band, not mine.
Check out more from FLHS band’s website: https://sites.google.com/site/fortlauderdalehighband/