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New FHS band director seeks help in replacing band’s 20-year-old uniforms


Last updated 8/20/2017 at Noon

New Fallbrook High School band director Derek Lee welcomes family and friends of his students to the marching band's showcase Aug. 11. The showcase marked the conclusion of summer band camp. Shane Gibson photos

It didn’t take long for Derek Lee, the new band director at Fallbrook High School, to sniff out a goal – new uniforms for band members.

“The first time they brought them out into the room for uniform fittings, they had a pretty strong, wretched smell to them, like 20 years of sweat and blood and tears that went into them,” said Lee. “So, I see that as a problem. It's gross.”

Lee, 28, is making his debut as a band director after having served in teaching and coaching capacities with bands and orchestras at Eastlake High School, Hoover High School, Otay Ranch High School and Chino High School.

Lee finds it very disturbing that 1997 marks the last year the Fallbrook High marching band donned new uniforms, adding that the average turnover for band uniforms in high school is “five to 10 years, with 10 years being on the long side.”

"Our uniforms are no longer white, they're a good shade of beige,” said Lee. “Some of them have stains that will never be able to be removed. So I hope that we are able to raise money this year and next year to have new uniforms within the next two years.

“The band deserves to look good and the kids deserve to feel good in them and not feel so frumpy and dingy in their old white uniforms from 1997,” continued Lee. “The style of those uniforms is even older than that. They deserve to be in the here and now and be proud of what they are and be proud of the school and the organization they come from."

Lee said band uniforms cost “about $300 to $400” each.

“Ultimately, I want to have 100 in stock and ready to go,” said Lee. “That way, if and when the program grows, you have enough uniforms and nobody would be excluded from being part of this organization at school.”

Lee added he would obviously like to put the uniform order in sooner rather than later and thus encourages anyone who would like to help to visit the donation link available on the Fallbrook Band Boosters website. The link,, takes people directly to the band’s donation page where they can donate via Paypal.

People can also make a tax deductible donation by writing a check and sending it to: Fallbrook Band Boosters Inc., PO Box 1604, Fallbrook, CA 92088, Non Profit: (501(c)3 710918424).

Lee, who was hired July 28, said he couldn’t be more impressed with the Fallbrook Band Boosters organization.

"They are the most helpful people,” said Lee. “I literally met with them 30 minutes after I signed my paper work. I've never seen a more involved group of people, and the amount of care that they have for their kids and this ensemble, it's by far the best I've seen."

Lee replaced Victor Torres, who served as Fallbrook High’s band director from 2011 through last June. Torres took a full-time teaching position at Bloomington High School in the Colton Joint Unified School District.

“He (Torres) brought this program back to life, and the leadership program here that he established is probably one of the best I've ever seen in any band program, and that's including all the big bands that I've worked with,” said Lee. “It was amazing coming here the first day because they had everything running like a machine.”

The one thing Lee didn’t have his first day on the job at Fallbrook High was numbers. Lee said that may have been due to the fact that he was a “late hire” and there were rumors that there might not be a band this school year.

“From the 70 (band members) last year, my first day here we started out with 17,” said Lee. “And so I was kind of in fear, thinking, ‘oh God, I don't want to be that guy that drove away all the students.’”

Lee said the 17 students that showed up on day one of band camp helped spread the word that the band was indeed alive and that led to others returning.

“I'm very happy that they've really accepted me here,” said Lee of the students. “Since day one, they've been saying, 'we've been calling everybody.’ And it’s been working. People have been trickling in.”

Eight days into band camp, band membership had grown to 40 and was expected to continue to grow. Lee said he was hoping to get another 10 to 15 members once school started (Aug.14).

Lee said band members made a good early impression on him.

“They have the drive and the want,” said Lee. “I told them up front, since it is a new director year and the amount of returning students is up in the air, it will be a rough season and that we're going to work extra hard, and they seem 100 percent on board.”

Lee said his primary job is to make sure his students learn and develop as musicians. He plans to achieve that goal by “putting education back into music education” – a phrase often recited to Lee by a former teacher and mentor.

Marching Warriors band members prepare for a performance on the Fallbrook Stadium field.

“I want my kids to learn something while they're here and not just play an eight-minute field show for close to six months and that's all they learn,” said Lee.

Lee currently plays tuba for the Villa Musica Symphony Orchestra and also performs with the La Jolla Symphony and San Diego City Ballet. He said the key to a good marching band is “a good concert band.”

“My philosophy is: if you can't play well, then what are you?” said Lee. “I've always been a huge concert band person. I myself have been a part of several orchestras and I pride myself on my musicianship. I'd like to see that transfer onto my students – have them be prideful of their own musicianship because ultimately this is about them. This is their show. I want them to display their skills as an ensemble and not me waving a stick at them."


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