Forest High School Band Program
The 2010’s were a time of transition and growth for the FHS band program. Enrollment had been on the decline in the first few years of the decade and the band program had decreased in its over all scope, only having a marching band and a concert band. While the marching band received a Superior rating at the FBA Marching Festival in 2011, its membership was down to about 30 members. It had not participated in the Ocala Christmas Parade in a few years due to declining enrollment and instrumentation issues. The band's performance at concert festivals had been mixed the past few years as well. It was decided at the end of the 2012 school year, that Ms. Alexander would step down as the band director after 13 years with the program. Though feelings were mixed at this decision, the students that remained found a renewed energy and enthusiasm with their new director, Mr. David Jones.
Beginning in 2012 the marching band focused less on being competitive, instead focusing on more crowd-oriented performances grounded in strong performance fundamentals. Mr. Jones brought on Ms. Kara Brady to help form a color guard unit for the marching band. That year the FHS Band took 1st place in 1A at the Ocala Marching Band Festival and qualified for the State FMBC Semi-finals in Tampa (the last year that qualifying scores were required). The Band performed at FMBC state for the first time since 2008. That same year, the FHS Band and the Vanguard HS Band combine for the first joint halftime performance in the schools’ nearly 40 year rivalry. Together the bands performed Gangnam Style by K-Pop artist PSY. The marching band also made its first appearance at the Ocala Christmas Parade in several years.
In the spring of 2013, Mr. Jones started an after-school jazz band, as FHS had not had a jazz band since the mid 2000’s. This group, which met once a week, attended the FBA Jazz Festival that February and received an Excellent rating. Having shown the administration that the jazz band was viable, it was moved into the regular curriculum where it became a class the following year.
In 2014, the guard instructor, Ms. Kara Brady, put together the first Winter Guard unit at the school, naming it the Emerald WAVE (Wildcat Artistic Visual Ensemble). They attended the FBA Auxiliary MPA that year for the first time and received a Superior Rating. The band would continue to perform shows that would play on the nostalgia of the crowd, with themes such at Oz and Video Games while band enrollment increased, and ratings continued to improve. That year, the FHS band, through a tremendous effort by the Booster program, was able to have an opportunity to host the Dallas Brass for a performance at Forest. Both the FHS Band and the LWHS Band combined to perform with this world-renowned group of musicians. This collaboration between the two schools would continue into the next decade with joint pre-game performances, travel partnerships, and the annual “Jazz on the Square” event featuring the Jazz band from both schools.
2015, FHS stepped back into the competitive arena with a concept show, Esprit de Corps, having increased its enrollment to around 70 members and moving up into the 3A classification. While FHS took top three in their class at each competition that year, including a 1st in class win at OMBF, the band returned to its audience focused performance style after the following year. This same year, the Emerald WAVE attended their first competition in FFCC and received an overall Superior rating in the Eval Class.
In 2016, a Jazz Combo was added to the curriculum. Both jazz groups would go on to receive Superior ratings at the FBA State Jazz MPA. The Jazz Bands would perform at the Lakeside Jazz Festival in Port Orange, the Golden Triangle Jazz Festival in Eustis, in additional to several performances in Ocala and Gainesville. The Emerald WAVE placed in the top 3 at FFCC competitions and took 5th place at the FFCC State Championship.
2017 was the “All Superior Year” for the FHS. The band received superior ratings in marching, concert, jazz, and auxiliary. The Jazz bands would receive superiors at state as well as the Emerald WAVE. All ensembles that attended State Solo and Ensemble that year also received superior ratings. The Marching Band had returned to their audience-oriented show format with Kings of the Keys, featuring music by rock piano artists Billy Joel, Ray Charles, and Elton John. The FHS and LWHS jazz bands collaborated on a performance in downtown Ocala on the square in April of that year that has become an annual collaborative event ever since, known as Jazz On the Square. The Concert band would attend the State Concert MPA for the first time since 1999. At the end of the school year the band traveled to Orlando to watch the Blue Man Group perform. Tragedy struck in April of that school year when a shooting took place on the FHS Campus. Luckily, no students were killed (one student was injured during the event), the perpetrator was quickly arrested, and all the students made it home safely that day.
2018 would see a continuation of the trend of excellence from the previous year with Superiors in Concert and Marching band. Both the Jazz Band and Combo took on an ambitious repertoire program that year and received Excellent ratings at the FBA Jazz MPA, but would go on to receive Superiors at both the Eustis Jazz Festival and Lakeside Jazz Festival later that school year. In the Spring of that year, the Emerald WAVE would go on to make school and county history by placing 1st at FFCC State Championships.
2019 would be the return of the “Superior Year” for FHS as the Band received straight superior ratings at every MPA they attended. The Marching Band with their show, Latin Nights, took home the Grand Champion Trophy from the Ocala Marching Band Festival. The band would also make the Finals round at the Kingdom of the Sun Marching Festival, coming in 6th overall at that competition. Throughout the decade, FHS received overall superior ratings at FBA marching festivals, the longest streak of superior ratings in marching band for FHS since the 1970’s. The Jazz bands and the concert band both received superior rating and were planning performance trips for both Orlando and Jacksonville later that school year. It seemed like FHS was poised to move into the next decade at the top of their game. 2020 had other plans.
Jody Alexander (1998-2012)
David Jones (2012-Current)
1st Joint Halftime performance with VHS- 2012
State FMBC in Tampa- 2012
Jazz Band reinstated -2013
1st Emerald Wave FBA performance -2014
Performance with the Dallas Brass- 2014
1st place win at OMBF in 3A- 2015
1st Emerald WAVE FFCC- 2015
Jazz Combo Added-2016
1st Lakeside Jazz Performance-2016
1st Jazz on the Square- 2017
Jazz Bands State Superior- 2017
Golden Triangle Festival- 2018
1st Place FFCC Championship-2019