Herndon Lawrence Walker was at Franklin Middle when it opened in 1984. But now, after 30 years with Fairfax County Public Schools — 28 of them at Franklin — the school’s band director has retired.
“It was time; I’ve done everything I wanted to do in my career at Franklin,” he said. “But I’ll keep my hands in education and in music. I’ve played trumpet with the Fairfax Wind Symphony and will probably return to that, and I’ll still run Franklin’s Band and Orchestra Camp in the summer.”
Walker also plans to work with student music teachers in college, as well as do some gardening at home and spend quality time with his wife of 31 years, Sheila, and their two daughters.
“I’m looking forward to traveling with him and visiting old friends we haven’t seen in a long time,” she said. “But most of all, it’ll be nice just having him home and enjoying his company on a full-time basis.”
Reflecting on his nearly three decades at Franklin, Walker said he’ll miss “the kids, competitions and colleagues” and he’s especially proud that he was able to take the band all over the country to perform. “We were a demonstration band this year at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland,” he said. “And last year, we received the Grand Champion award at a competition in Boston.”
The year before that, Franklin did the same thing in New York, beating four high schools. And in previous years, the school won band championships in Atlanta, Nashville and Toronto.
“This is the school my children went to, and I’ve had a wonderful career here, working in a school in my own community,” said Walker. “I’ve gotten great satisfaction working with some of the finest students with great attitudes and wonderful musicianship.”
The new band director, Kurt Holscher, knows he has some big shoes to fill. “It’s exciting, but a little daunting being only the second band director in the history of the school,” he said. “But there’s a great tradition here and a really good foundation, so there’s a lot less groundwork to do.”
“My dad’s a pastor and he taught me how to give back,” said Walker. “My philosophy is that, if you don’t make a difference, you’ve wasted your time. I was born to be an educator, and what I’ve gotten from the kids is the knowledge that I’m needed. I think they’ve made more of a difference in my life than I’ve made in theirs.”
Furthermore, he said, “I’ve also learned that, if you do what’s right as an educator, you can live with the result. And it’s gratifying when you give all you have and see a young person musically give that back to you.”
On July 31, Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) honored Walker in front of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He gave him a plaque acknowledging his “28 years of outstanding and noteworthy service” as Franklin’s band director and Music Department chair.
“We all know education is more than just reading, writing and arithmetic,” said Frey. “It includes extracurricular activities that make well-rounded individuals and better students. And Lawrence Walker has helped the musicians he’s trained to further their passion and love for music.”
“All you have to do is look at the tremendous music programs at Chantilly High to see the years of success they had a Franklin,” continued Frey. “It’s amazing to see the talent and ability they have, and it’s a sad note to see Mr. Walker retire and move on. We thank you for all you’ve done and wish you all the best in the future.”
The honor meant a great deal to Walker, and so did his students’ last concert at Franklin before the school year ended. “Fifty-seven of my former students now in high school at Oakton and Chantilly came back to perform with the symphonic band,” he said. “It was very emotional for the school and me. I thought five or 10 would come back, but Oakton’s band director told me, ‘Lawrence, they love you. They wanted to come back and play for you.’”