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November 13, 2017

New director Lombardo leads LHS marching band

Photos/Cassandra Brown
Tuba players Meghan Tucker (back) and Krystina Kilby at after-school marching band practice.
I’m a big believer that band doesn’t just teach music, it teaches time management, leadership, responsibility, friendship, loyalty, how to be a good person.
— LHS marching band Director Ben Lombardo
Benjamin Lombardo
• Age: 24

• Home: Marshall.

• Family: Parents, Fred and Judy; brother, Brian; fiancé Rachel Hollingsworth.

• Education: Bachelor’s degree, music education, Slippery Rock University, Pa., 2015; Canon-McMillan High School, 2011.

• Work: Band director, Liberty High School, August 2017 to present; band director, Skyline High School, 2015-17; assistant band director, Slippery Rock High School, 2014, and Montour High School, 2013.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A moment of fear swept over the sophomore tuba player this summer.

When Meghan Tucker learned that beloved 15-year marching band director Patrick Neidich would no longer teach at Liberty High School in Bealeton, she became “terrified.”

“Both my brothers went through marching band and I already knew Mr. Neidich,” who got promoted to assistant principal at LHS, said Meghan, 15.

But, she relaxed after meeting the new band teacher, Ben Lombardo.

“Once I met Mr. Lombardo, everything got better. I knew the year was going to be good,” Meghan said. “He always cracks me up, and his main instrument is the tuba. We can joke around about the instrument.”

Liberty’s new 24-year-old marching band director has big shoes to fill, but he has embraced his new job with excitement and high goals.

“It’s my goal is to take the amazing foundation that Mr. Neidich laid and build it, and push them to the next level,” Mr. Lombardo said.

“He loves his job and is dedicated 100 percent to the program,” junior Lane Mullins said. “I like the energy he brings to the band. He’s always hyped up to get us hyped up.”

As a former high school director in Front Royal, Mr. Lombardo has watched marching band evolve over the last several years.

Among his goals, he plans to bring Liberty’s band into a more modern era.

“It’s become a full-on production,” Mr. Lombardo said. “It’s not just marching in formation anymore.”

Each year the band performs a choreographed show at five state competitions.

This year, Mr. Lombardo challenged students by having them perform a seven-minute “paranormal” tale with sound effects and a storyline.

In the show, the band pretends to be zombies while walking onto the football field. One color guard member tries to escape from four other “zombies” as they dance and twirl flags.

The band received three first-place awards and a third-place ranking in competitions this year. The Eagles also received an “excellent” rating during state marching assessment on Nov. 4.

Mr. Lombardo sees great potential in Liberty’s students and hopes to expand the after-school extracurricular activity.

This year, Liberty’s marching band has 59 members.

“In four years, I’d like to get it to 100 — bring on 10 additional students each year,” Mr. Lombardo said.

At his previous job as band director at Skyline High School, Mr. Lombardo increased participation.

“In the two years I was there, we built the program from 40 to 60 members,” he said. “They went from not competing to getting an excellent score at marching assessment.”

He decided to switch jobs this year because he loved Fauquier’s support for music.

“Fauquier County has it going on for music. They support their programs,” Mr. Lombardo said. “With an assistant principal (Mr. Neidich) and principal (Sam Cox), both former band directors . . . I was like, I got to work there. That’s a place where they are going to support the arts.”

Mr. Lombardo decided he wanted to be a band director at age 12.

“My middle school band director was an inspiration to me,” he said. “When I look back in my life and I think of the absolute best memories of my entire life, all of them involved band and music.

“I’m a big believer that band doesn’t just teach music, it teaches time management, leadership, responsibility, friendship, loyalty, how to be a good person,” Mr. Lombardo said.

The extracurricular activity takes lots of time, practice and dedication.

“A lot of people don’t realize it, but there’s an incredible amount of stamina that goes into it,” Mr. Lombardo said. “There are over a hundred different sets or counts that are in our show.”

Students start practicing in late July.

From August to early November, band members practice more than six hours a week after school.

Each student pays $180 to cover school activity fees, snacks, props and other items.

“It’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun,” junior Courtney Jacobs said. “It’s rewarding in the end. It gets you involved in school. Coming in freshman year, you make 60 new friends before school starts.”

In addition, the band performs on the field and in the bleachers at seven football games.

“I believe the football team and the marching band need to have a lot of mutual respect for one another,” Mr. Lombardo said. “We are there to provide energy and support to the crowd, root for our team. It’s our job to give that high amount of energy.”

“They’re doing just as much as any sport is doing,” Mr. Lombardo said.

He also hopes to inspire middle schoolers to join the marching band in the future and garner more support for the program.

“It’s important for us to keep the arts alive,” Mr. Lombardo said. “In the past 20 years, it’s a common theme to cut the arts and they are always the first to go.”

Mr. Lombardo also teaches the symphonic band, wind and jazz ensembles, concert band, and music theory classes at Liberty High School.

“He has a lot of spirit,” Courtney said. “I think he really brings us together.”

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