Director’s News

Notes from Doc & London FAQs

Here’s the current “band happenings” for this week (as of 3/5/19):

  1. I have attached some FAQ’s about our London trip (see below).  After talking with many of you last evening at our Booster meeting, I wanted to provide some answers to the questions that were being raised by some very supportive parents.  If you have any other questions, please email me!  Also, remember that we need all surveys returned by Thursday, March 14th – the date of our next concert.  As of this writing, we have around 35 confirmations; we definitely need at least another 15-20 families on-board before we can move forward.  If you feel that you want to change your survey response after reading the attachment, please email me.
  2. Our school musical “All Shook Up” will be presented Wednesday, 3/6 through Saturday 3/9 at 7:00pm.  We have many band members involved in some manner – pit orchestra, acting, singing, and tech crew.  We are so fortunate to enjoy such a terrific performing arts department at Athens Drive!
  3. Our Festival Concert II featuring our Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble will be held next Thursday, March 14th at 7:00pm.  I am told that the school is planning a special “40th anniversary” dinner preceding the concert and that the attendees will be invited to our program.  You might get to meet some very important people to this history of this great school.  At any rate, the music will be wonderful!!


That’s it for now!   Can we turn up the thermostat on the weather???





  1. I thought we were going to London for sure… Why the survey?

In the words of Will Rogers, the “cowboy-like” sage popular in the early 20th century, “If you’re riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.”

I want to make sure we have enough of a “base” population committed to this trip before we begin completing all the required paperwork and making the necessary deposits.

  1. Is this trip just for the marching band, or are the concert groups permitted to go?

It is for everyone!  In fact, that is what is so cool about this experience – it mirrors our program at Athens Drive!  It has a marching component (the New Years Day Parade) and concert component (performing a concert in the London area).  Every student connected with our band is permitted to sign-on and perform with us!

  1. Are we trying to take everyone or just the students that intend to pay for the trip?

Just the students who intend to pay for the trip.  I am not treating this as an “honorary” trip, like the Outback Bowl or Carnegie Hall.

  1. How long is the trip?

A full week, including six nights in a first-class hotel in London.

  1. What types of events will the students be involved with?

This will most likely be the most educational trip that our band has ever taken.  Most of our time will be spent sight-seeing and enjoying the many attractions that have become world-famous.  We will also be getting out of London for at least 1-2 excursions (e.g., Oxford University).  London is a great walking city – there will be many tours that we will be enjoying on foot with MP3 players telling us what we are seeing!

  1. How inclusive is the $3,500 figure?

VERY!  It includes just about everything except a few meals and souvenirs:  airfare, lodging, meals, admission tickets, all kinds of event memorabilia, ground transportation throughout the duration of the trip, etc.

  1. Will we be having fundraisers to lower this cost?

Absolutely!  In fact, we are working through a bunch of them at this time to determine which ones are most promising.  We will assemble a committee as soon as we commit to concentrate on this project.

  1. Is there a minimum number of students required to make this trip a reality?

In truth, no.  However, I believe that we would need to have the backing of at least 50 families whose band accounts are current in order to commit.  I know that we will get a bunch of rising 9th graders on board for next year, as well as rising 8th graders the year after.  In fact, we are inviting all current 7th and 8th graders to our marching band orientation days on May 13-14 in order to address this trip.

  1. What can be done for students who really want to go but they simply do not have the resources to raise the funds?

As stated in the initial letter presented last November, once we commit, we will ask those families that fall into the above category to let us know so that we can begin the task of assistance.  Please note that we will help only those families who have shown an active record of participation in our fund raisers.  This trip cannot be a “handout.”  However, families that have shown the work ethic required up to this point will be assisted.  In fact, we have already had several families come forward to contribute personal funds toward helping others…and I will do that as well.

  1. Will any changes occur to our year-to-year programs due to this trip?

No.  That is not the purpose of this trip and it would be a disservice to those who have chosen not to participate.

  1. How about folks who change their mind once a commitment is made?

We will provide information about EVERY DETAIL in writing once we begin the paper trail.  You will be informed about refund policies, etc.  Our trips have always been meticulously planned and the company that organizes this event has been doing it for 40 years and every band director that I have spoken to raves about the entire experience.

  1. When will we be given a full-blown itinerary?

I provided a sample overview in the letter a few weeks ago.  I would expect a very good working itinerary once we formally sign-on to this event.  As noted above, these folks have been doing this for decades and know their clientele.

  1. Do you anticipate any friction in the program between families that plan to go and those that chose not to?

No – largely because when we took components of our band to other events, everyone was good about it…this includes numerous trips to Walt Disney World, New York City (Carnegie Hall), the Bands of America National Concert Band Festival (Wind Ensemble/Percussion Ensemble).  The day-to-day flow of this band program will remain absolutely intact.  Sure, there will be some special rehearsals for the performances as the date draws near – and some really cool hype – but in terms of the climate, we make great music every day!

  1. When will the final decision be made as to whether or not to commit to this trip?

The board and I will discuss the results of the survey at the end of this month.  I will look at EVERY response.  I would expect a decision to be published mid-April.

  1. One more time, why are we doing this?

To grow.

To give our child(ren) a positively life-changing experience.

To lift the environment of our band, music program, school, and community.

To provide a goal that is worthy of a tremendous amount of effort and which will provide an even greater reward.

I have “lived” at Athens Drive H.S. for the past 25 years..  I’ve raised 2 children through this program.  It is a very special place…comprised of students who are very teachable and who want to be the best that they can be.  It is comprised of a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities – a mirror of our nation.  Our students and families do not have an “entitled” demeanor, nor one that is ignorant.  Athens Drive has the “raw material” for genuine excellence.

When I started my tenure here in 1994, there were 50 total students in the marching band and only 1 concert band.  One of my band director colleagues at the time actually referred to our band as “the joke of Wake County.” [No kidding!]

25 years later… We have over 200 musicians in our program, 7 active ensembles, an incredible record of excellence including 20+ years of  “Superior” ratings at State Band Festival, a performance at the Bands of America “National Concert Band Festival” in Indianapolis, over 30 “Grand Champion” marching awards, performances at WGI International Competition in Dayton, Ohio, and performances throughout the eastern United States including Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, Washington D.C. Memorial Day Parade, and the National Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.  …And more trophies than we know what to do with…  And a semi-trailer and box truck…

…And the sincere “respect” of all the band directors in Wake County.

All because the students and parents of this great school decided to take chances, decided to trust, and dared to dream of a better program.


Let’s keep growing!

Dr. Jerry Markoch, Director of Bands

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