Residents of Burke, get ready. Around 9:30 p.m. Saturday, there is going to be a thunderous crescendo emitting from Lake Braddock Secondary School, when more than 300 musicians blast out the final sections of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as a final tribute to Roy Holder, who is stepping down after 23 years of leading what is likely Virginia’s premiere high school band. And there probably won’t be a dry eye, or an undamaged eardrum, in the house.
Holder, 62, is the director of Lake Braddock’s symphonic, concert and marching bands, and he maintained the school’s remarkable streak of 30 consecutive years of receiving the “Honor Band” award from the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association. That’s actually 60 straight semesters of ”superior” ratings, Holder explained, because the marching band is rated in the fall and the concert band is rated in the spring.
A 30-year string for one school? “There’s nobody in the state very close to that,” Holder said.
And so for the annual year-end performance of the symphonic and concert bands, perhaps 130 or more Lake Braddock alumni musicians from around the country are returning to the school’s Little Theater on Saturday night to accompany the 185 current members. To approximate the cannon blasts in the final movement, 22 bass drums are being wheeled in, Holder said.
“It’ll be interesting,” he said. “It’ll be loud.”
Holder is a Tennessee native, trained originally as a tuba player, and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee. He taught in his home state for 15 years, then moved to West Potomac High School in Fairfax County for three years before taking over at Lake Braddock.
“It’s been a great run,” Holder said Thursday. “I could not have asked for more. It’s just time to do other things.” He actually plans to fill in at various Fairfax elementary schools for a year until his wife retires next year.
Lake Braddock has sent its musicians to all of the top conservatories, to the military bands and “at one time we had five kids at Juilliard [School in New York] ,” Holder said. The band has toured throughout the country and last year played in China. “That was a big deal,” Holder said.
“We have a very good feeder system from the elementary schools [Lake Braddock is both a middle and a high school], a great staff of people and boosters, and everybody adopted the program and bought into it,” Holder said
Margi Flynn, a band booster and parent of two Lake Braddock musicians, said that when she took her daughter to visit Penn State University recently, the band director told her, “That’s one of the premiere high school band programs in the country.”
Flynn said Lake Braddock graduates report that “the things these kids are doing now are above and beyond many college programs in the country.” She said Holder “knows how to command the respect for the kids. They know that he’s someone who has their best interests at heart.”
Mike Luley, the current associate band director, will take Holder’s place and try to maintain the school’s incredible string of Honor Band awards. He said Holder’s work ethic was personified by his often repeated claim that ”I never ever ever ever give up.”
Luley called Holder “a consummate musician. And he believes in the kids first. He’s not going to make anybody do anything he hasn’t started first.”
There are no seats available for Saturday night’s concert. In fact, Flynn said the school is streaming video into an overflow room for everyone who wants to just say they were there. More than 200 band alumni are returning, and at least 130 are planning on rehearsing Saturday morning and playing Saturday night.
“It’s really going to be something,” she added.
UPDATE: Del. Scott Surovell wrote a nice tribute to Holder this morning on his blog: