STORIES OF A LIFETIME

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Kenadee Bott

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PHS band director, John Fabela, shares stories of his past and present.

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STORIES OF A LIFETIME

Fabela plays his trumpet along with the PHS band during class.

Fabela plays his trumpet along with the PHS band during class.

Kenadee Bott

Fabela plays his trumpet along with the PHS band during class.

Kenadee Bott

Kenadee Bott

Fabela plays his trumpet along with the PHS band during class.

Stories commonly start with the phrase, “Once upon a time…” However, for the Powell High School band students, “story time” happens more frequently than one normally would see.

Mr. John Fabela has been directing PHS students ever since some of them started in sixth grade. And these stories continue to be told, only now the students are high-schoolers.

“Usually I try to relate a story or something that happened in my life to whatever we’re playing in class,” Mr. Fabela said. “I tell the ‘forgetting my music’ story so [my students] don’t do the same thing because there’s nothing worse than being on stage and not having the right music. And if we’re talking about some musical element, maybe something happened in my life that I could relate that can make [my students] understand. I try to think of a metaphor that will help them understand the music better.”

Mr. Fabela has told of instances wherein he has forgotten his music while performing in Paris. When the students were in middle school and still learning how to play their instruments, he would tell stories of ping pong balls floating in the air because of a steady airstream. He related these stories back to students with a musical interpretation of each.

“I like telling the ‘forgetting my music’ story because, No. 1, I was 17 years old and it was a really bonehead thing to do, and a lot of you are 17 or will be, and it lets you know that it will be OK to make a mistake,” he said. “Life goes on. And now, it’s even cooler to tell that story because I’m having students go to Paris and go to that same church where my story comes from.

“So now, they can see for themselves and say, ‘I can imagine him as a goofy 17-year-old running to the back to run to grab his music and then stop halfway up.’ It’s not really that long of a distance but still.”

As Mr. Fabela tries to relate events that happened to him back to what is happening in the classroom, the band is creating some of their own stories for when they may need to relate that incident back to what is happening in their lives.

“So we were playing ‘Ghost Riders’ and since this was the year of Wyoming All-State Marching Band, all of the marching band kids were used to playing it,” senior Austin Chandler said. “Because we were in a small room, the vibrations combined with a snare drum very close to the edge ended in a falling snare drum landing right on the head of one of the timpanis.”

As the students have been experiencing their own stories over the years, Mr. Fabela has begun to notice the shift and has started to pick students to share these moments with the rest of the band.

And if we’re talking about some musical element, maybe something happened in my life that I could relate that can make [my students] understand. I try to think of a metaphor that will help them understand the music better.”

— John Fabela

“I like hearing their stories,” Mr. Fabela said. “I’ve heard stories that I haven’t heard before. I didn’t know that some of that stuff happened. I think it’s just really cool to hear their perspective.”

As high school students, some of the band members have been hearing these experiences since the beginning of the sixth grade. In middle school, Mr. Fabela would tell the students about the high school band and the learning experiences he has had with them. To this day, he continues to tell the middle-schoolers about the high school band.

“I tell them about their achievements,” Mr. Fabela said. “They ask me all the time, especially this time of year when they are registering for next year. The ‘I want to be a basketball player. I want to be in a sport. Can I do both?’ And I remind them, every year when we play for the fifth-graders, I turn and I ask, ‘How many of you have been in a sport this year?’ and almost the whole band stands up. That lets them know, OK, I know I’m going to be an athlete, but I can still to [band].’”

With the stories that are shared, Mr. Fabela continues to help the students perform high level music at District Festival every spring. He has a-32 year streak of receiving a “1” for these performances. In music festivals, this rating is the highest one can receive.

A big reason I tell so many stories is because I’m just a Powell boy who has had many many amazing experiences and opportunities through music and I want all of you to understand that those opportunities are available to you too,” Mr. Fabela said.

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