As one member of the audience put it, “Can I just say, ‘WOW’!” Indeed. Indeed, you can. As did I; because we did it again!

On the night of September 21st, 2017, Christa McAuliffe Middle School put on it’s first ever music department concert. It showcased our incredible, dedicated students in band and strings, from beginning through advanced. As hundreds of audience members made their way into the MPR (the biggest turnout we’ve ever had), they could not have imagined the level of excellence and the quality of the show they were about to experience.

The night began with our intermediate strings students taking the stage by storm. They showed off their four string warm-up fearlessly, demonstrating their ability to cross strings. They then performed a rousing version of “Hot Cross Buns” (utilizing quarter notes, half notes and whole notes on three pitches), and finished with “Good King Wenceslas”, an old traditional carol about a 10th-century monarch who went out into the severe cold to give charity to the poor.

After thunderous applause, Concert Band took the stage. A group of beginners and intermediate players, they entered the stage with an impressive air of professionalism. After a brief warm-up, they performed a piece called “Listen to Our Sections”, which featured the various sections of the band and demonstrated a sophisticated sense of independence within the ensemble. The audience roared as the band finished playing the second repeat of the piece, which went at a fast “allegro” tempo!

They went on to play a duet entitled “London Bridge”. The 17-member band did an excellent job of balancing the parts, and many audience members claimed they sounded at least twice as big as they were! Next came “Frere Jacques”, a technically challenging piece that featured the use of dynamics. Starting at a whisper, the piece ended with a roar. Particularly notable were the percussion, who demonstrated great dynamic control! Finally, the band finished with a fun number called “Old McDonald Had A Band”. This was a thrilling way to end their segment as it featured drum set and cowbell. Beyond that, the students were able to play the entire piece without a conductor!

The Advanced Orchestra then entered the stage with the confidence of seasoned players who have been there before. Starting with an appropriately titled piece called “Night at Symphony Hall”, the audience was pulled in with the triumphant declaration of “Trumpet Voluntary”, the dignified poise of Brahms’ “Symphony No. 1” and the thrilling adventure of the “William Tell Overture”. The orchestra then slowed it down for a popular favorite in “A Whole New World” which inevitably got every child in the audience singing along to the sweet sounds of the violins. The orchestra concluded with a thrilling piece called “Dragon Slayer” in which they sonically did battle with the fantastic beast and finished their portion of the concert with a snarl!

The evening concluded with a performance by the award-winning CMMS Wind Ensemble. They took to the stage with elegance and repose, warming up and tuning on their own. With little preamble, they launched into their first piece, “Comet Ride”. Beginning with an aura of mystery, the piece quickly launches into a powerful opening statement which builds to a caesura (a break in the music). The audience was immediately captivated as the band catapulted itself into a fast-paced, high energy adventure through the aural cosmos and finished with a resounding “big bang”!

After raucous applause, the 43 member ensemble moved on to a student favorite, “Abandoned Treasure Hunt”. The piece conveys a sense of thrill and danger likened to a story about pirates and hidden treasure. With incredible amounts of refined percussion writing, sweeping eighth and sixteenth notes in the saxophones and flutes, and a mechanical sense of independence throughout the band, the performance was a complete success.

We celebrated the birthday of one of our band members with an impromptu performance of “Happy Birthday”, then went into an emotional piece which was dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and the earthquake in Mexico City. “…At Twilight” featured soloists Madeleine Chesley, Teresa Ducusin, Dulce Barragan and Hannah Drullard. The piece rose and fell with grace and sensitivity, equal parts hopeful and tragic. With one final Bb major chord and the soothing sound of the bells, the piece ended with a beautiful sense of resolve which left the audience approaching tears.

We finished the night with a celebratory piece entitled “Arabian Dances”. The clarinet solo played by Sarena Hale was reported to “bring tears” to the eyes of many in the audience. Also featuring Dulce Barragan on flute and Malachi Antillon on xylophone, the mysterious opening gave way to a raucous celebration as the brass established a blazing ostinato (repeating pattern in music). With clapping, shouting, and unbelievable technical dexterity in the woodwinds, the piece raced to a thrilling, victorious close. The band was greeted with 15-20 seconds of applause and many audience members were moved to their feet. The night was thrilling, captivating and will be one to remember forever!

Thank you to all of the parents and audience members who helped make the night so successful, from helping with the potluck to tearing down to supporting your children in music education. We would be nowhere without you! Similarly, many thanks go to our administration (Mr. Kirby and Mr. Howard) for their unwavering support, to Scott (our night custodian) and to our wonderful counselors Sue Atterberry and Mary Jo Andrada, without whom we would not have students in our classes!

As we say in show business, the show must go on! We will see you again in November for a benefit concert put on with the PTSA, and in December for a joint concert at Bear Creek High School. We couldn’t be more proud of our students, and you should be very proud of your children!



Aaron Fonzi

Director of Bands

Christa McAuliffe Middle School


Concert Policy

Good afternoon,


In lieu of how close we are to our first concert this year, I’d like to clarify a new policy this year regarding concerts. Concerts are incredible, special events which serve to highlight the remarkable efforts of our dedicated young musicians. The atmosphere and educational opportunities which come from performance cannot be replicated, and part of this is the breath-taking reward of working so hard for something and knowing it paid off by the roar of an audience, the congratulations of those around you and the feeling of self-pride that cannot be put into words.

This being said, we take great pride in our performance at CMMS, and proper preparation is mandatory for all students who wish to perform. As such, students who cannot perform the required concert music will not be allowed to perform in the concert. This policy is in place for the following reasons:

  1. Those who have worked hard preparing for a concert tend to experience a boost in self-confidence, pride and eagerness to learn following the successful performance of their first concert. Those who cannot perform the music required tend to “fake” their performance on stage, leading to lower self-confidence, a false sense of pride and a decline in eagerness to learn. It is better not to perform at all if you are not prepared than to get on stage without knowing what you are doing (and have a negative experience because of it).

2. A performing ensemble is truly a team effort. One member of the team neglecting              their responsibilities will directly impact the rest of the team. High quality                            preparation, individual responsibility and work ethic are required for the success of          the whole ensemble.

NOTE: This decision is made by Mr. Fonzi based on the final playing test of each quarter. In this case, Playing Test #3 will be the one evaluated.


     Considering this policy, if a student is not prepared to perform, they will be given an alternate writing assignment to be completed during the concert, and they will perform an additional playing test of all their concert music to earn points for their concert grade. This same policy is in place for those who do not show up to perform in the concert.

It is my sincere hope that everyone in the program will be entirely prepared to perform, and we will have an AMAZING first concert. I am ecstatic about the wonderful evening ahead of us, and I hope you are too!

Per usual, I’m here to answer any questions!

~Mr. F



Fall Concert and Other Announcements



Can you believe the first quarter is almost over already? With the imminent end of the first quarter comes a very exciting event for us here in the band program: our Fall Concert! So without further ado, here are my announcements and reminders:


1. Gradebook

In the gradebook, you may notice quite a number of missing assignments have shown up very suddenly. These are nothing to worry about as they are simply reminders of what needs to get done by September 21st to qualify for an “A” grade in band this quarter. Anything that is marked as “missing” is not late or missing so to speak, it is simply not done yet. This being said, the grade indicated is nearly accurate to what the final grade would be should these assignments not be completed.

Aside from written assignments and sectionals, the only remaining grades this quarter are playing test #3, rehearsal grades and the concert! You may earn extra credit by participating in chair challenges and/or attending additional sectionals beyond the required number (3). If you/ your child cannot attend sectionals, please talk to me as I may have a few ideas on how we can work around conflicts.


2. Potluck

We are very excited to start this year with a music department potluck! This concert will be the first in school history to feature a joint music department concert, meaning that both band AND strings will be performing! As such, both band and strings students/parents will be asked to contribute something to the potluck. The potluck will occur prior to the concert (5:oo PM) in the band room. All students and parents are welcome to join us in fellowship before the concert and after for a reception.


3. Concert on September 21st

The concert will begin at 6:30 PM. It will happen in the MPR at Christa. Attire is still undecided, but if we have band shirts by then, we will wear our band shirts and our nicest jeans and dark shoes. If not, plan for concert formal. This is detailed in the band handbook.


Every student has a job to do on concert day. They are either part of the set-up crew, tear-down crew or performing a specialty assignment. All students are expected to stay through the ENTIRE concert, and must complete an assignment due at the end as proof that they did. We are a family, and we must support each other as such.


This being stated, students are reminded that as a member of the band, we are representing far more than ourselves. We represent our school, families, community and program. As such, we hold ourselves to a high standard of etiquette, attire and performance. Any breaches in these standards/expectations will result in deductions to concert grades and may result in the given student losing performance privileges. Concerts are special occasions meant to highlight your hard work and they act as the final assessment each quarter; we learn more through performance than by any other means, so take it seriously and hold yourself with pride. If you don’t, who will?


Please do not hesitate to drop me a note if you have any questions. Looking forward to an awesome first concert!




Aaron Fonzi

Director of Bands

Christa McAuliffe Middle School

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to another exciting year of music-making at Christa McAuliffe Middle School! We have so many exciting plans in store for our students and audiences, and I couldn’t be more excited to get going!

This post is meant for two things:

  1. To make sure those who are subscribed are receiving notifications as they should.
  2. To remind students that instruments will be required for Wednesday! Realistically, I don’t expect we will be doing much in the way of playing tomorrow.


Please remember to check the sidebar to the right of this post for things that are due and general reminders! Otherwise, don’t be afraid to send me an email or contact me via google voice!

~Mr. F


What a fantastic day we had yesterday!

Let me begin by congratulating our Wind Ensemble students on all of their accomplishments this year which culminated in a 3rd place win at festival with a rating of “Excellent”! Proud does not even begin to describe the feeling we all must have about this incredible achievement, especially since this group has established a standard of excellence for our school by being the first to go to a festival!

To put this into perspective:

The competition was fierce. 12 fantastic middle school bands competed from across the states of California and Nevada. For many of these schools, this was just another festival stop (maybe their 3rd or 4th of the year). But for us, this was history in the making- something we felt so passionate about that the energy was palpable to anyone we came across. Our performance brought many in the audience to tears and prompted the announcer (holding back tears) to say “that was incredible” and “that was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen”. The greatest joy of all was not in competing, nor in ratings; it was in the joy, pride and sheer beauty of what we had accomplished that will never be forgotten.

A few major thank yous:

  1. To all the chaperones without whom literally none of this could have happened.
  2. To our bus driver, who was flexible and supportive the entire time (however long the day got).
  3. To the judges, announcers and festival staff, whose positive energy and encouragement helped us to feel safe and eased our nerves.
  4. To our administrators, who have supported this program from Day 1 and continue to do so in great fashion.
  5. To all of the parents who have supported their children in this endeavor- you are truly “Excellent”!

As they say in show business, the show must go on! Now to prepare for our final concert on Thursday night! See you then!

                                                                                                                                                ~Mr. F

End of the Year Schedule

Hi y’all,


Can you believe we’re already approaching the end of the year? What a wild one it has been! Here is a look at what is yet to come:

  1. Wind Ensemble goes to festival on May 20th! We are still in need of Chaperones, so please be sure to fill out the chaperone interest form and get fingerprints done as soon as possible!
  2. Our final concert is at BCHS on May 25th. Concert Band goes on at 5:00 and Wind Ensemble goes on at 7:00. It’s going to be a massive concert, so come early to secure a seat and parking!
  3. Seventh Graders returning to the program next year will be welcome to perform at Promotion. We will be playing Pomp and Circumstance as processional music, and the orchestra will be playing recessional music.

Let’s finish the year off with some incredible music making and memories to last a lifetime! ~Mr. F

CMMS Bands Update

Good morning Christa McAuliffe Band Community!

We are almost to the end of the third quarter, and as such we are a-twitter with activity! Here are the performances we have coming down the road:

Spring Concert Dress Rehearsal- March 7th

Our previous concerts never required much in the ways of a dress rehearsal, but we are planning something special which will require the joint effort of everyone in the program to be there for a dress rehearsal. This is mandatory and part of each students concert grade.

It will happen after school Tuesday and we will be concluded no later than 4:30 PM assuming we work through things smoothly.

Spring Concert- March 9th

Our movie and video game themed concert is sure to delight and entertain! Students have been really challenged this quarter with music that requires dedication and commitment outside of class time in order to be successful. I believe we will all be amazed by the maturity of the performances of both our ensembles and the investment it takes to make those once in a lifetime performances come together.

We will be doing a 50-50 raffle at the concert! Buy a raffle ticket for one dollar for your chance to win half of the jackpot!

National Anthem at a Stockton Heat Game- March 12th

Our big fundraiser this quarter has been selling tickets to perform the national anthem at a Stockton Heat game. These tickets are due this coming Friday (March 3rd). Students must report to the Stockton Arena no later than 3:30 so we can perform at 4:00!

REMINDER: All students wishing to perform must buy their own ticket! I have to buy mine as well! All proceeds go toward sending Wind Ensemble to festival for the first time in school history!

Wind Ensemble Tour- April 14th

We are going to a few elementary schools to put on a recruitment program! We may be in need of a volunteer or two to assist with transporting percussion equipment. Please contact me ASAP if you may be able/ willing!

Summer Prism Concert- May 18th

A “prism” concert is one where the music is continuous throughout the concert. There are no breaks for any reason (except to occasionally switch music or for a conductor to walk to the next ensemble as needed). What makes this experience so unique and immersive is that it draws the listener into the music for music’s sake, allowing listeners to relax and make their own unique associations to each piece as it flows over you continuously.

The prism concert will tentatively feature:

  1. Concert Band
  2. Wind Ensemble
  3. Jazz Band
  4. Intermediate Orchestra
  5. Advanced Orchestra
  6. Flute Choir
  7. Clarinet Choir
  8. Saxophone Quartet
  9. Brass Band
  10. Percussion Ensemble
  11. Chamber Strings (the number of groups is undetermined)
  12. Soloists/ Duets (the number of groups is undetermined)

Music in the Parks Festival– May 20th

With enough funding and hard work by all, we may be able to send our wind ensemble to festival for the first time in school history. This event will see our wind ensemble competing for ratings against many middle school bands across California and Nevada, and our hope would be to come home with the first ever “Superior” rating trophy in this schools history. Help us make this a possibility by supporting our fundraising efforts and considering donating!


We have much work ahead of us, but as I tell the students: the fun is in the work!

~Mr. F