The typical high school band is made up of dozens of musicians. Woodwind, brass and percussion instruments are wielded by talented students to create music. These players can’t work together without a leader at the helm. Enter River Ridge High School senior, Jacie Fabela. This All-American Drum Major has been leading the way to success for the band here at home and is about to take her skills to an international stage.
“I grew up watching my cousin in his marching band,” explains Fabela. “I was really fascinated by it. I liked going to marching band competitions and watching field shows. He became a drum major so I thought it was the coolest thing ever. When I first started band, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be just like him.”
With her cousin as her inspiration, Fabela got started with her band career in fifth grade and took her skills to another level in middle school at Aspire Middle School for the Performing Arts. “I really got to dive into music when I got in to Aspire,” describes Fabela. “Jerry Huff’s [Aspire band director] personality just made learning so much fun even when we didn’t want to do something. He made me love jazz music, which I’ve stuck with. He gave me different challenges that pushed me to be a better musician and I wouldn’t be the musician I am today if it wasn’t for that. He always wants the best for the kids in his class and it made a big difference to me.”
After a stellar experience in middle school, Fabela was looking forward to working toward her goal at North Thurston High School, but in the final hours found out she would actually be attending River Ridge. “The boundaries changed and I was really disappointed at first,” says Fabela. “I had done a lot of research into Thurston’s program. When I got to Ridge, it was totally opposite from what I heard it was. The music is challenging and the environment is fun. When I started marching band, I wanted to see the program grow and saw a lot of potential for it.”
Quickly the band became competitive and performed at various local events. Fabela soon began the tedious process of applying to be drum major. “It was a really challenging process. We had to give a speech to our classmates about why we wanted to lead the program. My goal was that I wanted to bring unity to our band. I was so grateful when I was picked for the position.”
Being a drum major has opened the door to some incredible opportunities beyond her school’s band. “One of the requirements of being a major is going to a summer camp for intensive training,” explains Fabela. “It taught me a lot of skills I could use with my band at home. With those skills, we got into our first competition. We did really well and it made me proud. This past year I went to camp again and I worked so hard. I received the award for All-American Drum Major. I knew about the award and I had my sights on it. No one at my school had ever earned that so I thought it would be awesome to win it. It’s only given to top 12 percent of drum majors in the country.”
With this prestigious honor of being a top drum major comes the opportunity of a lifetime. “I’ve been invited to perform in the New Year’s Day parade in Rome, Italy. They set up arrangements to get there, but I have to pay my own way. Right now I’m making crafts to sell at bazaars, picking up extra shifts at work and set up a fundraising page.”
Even with more work on her plate, Fabela feels that it is all worth the effort in the end. “It’s such an honor to be able represent not just my school but my country! I get to take my skills overseas and march in the parade. It’s mind boggling! I get so excited when I think about it. It’s well worth all of the work.”