Reprinted from School Band Orchestra Magazine, Larkin Publications, November 2001

School Band and Orchestra Magazine WEB Spotlight ~ Internet Sitings

Casting a Web Presence ~ Spotlight on the Robinson Band Program, Fairfax, Va.
URL: www.RobinsonBand.org

School Band and Orchestra has received several requests from music departments to have their Web sites reviewed in our Internet Sitings section. We are very pleased with the caliber of the sites that have been brought to our attention and we look forward to receiving more inquiries. Please let us know about your music program’s Web site. It’s always interesting to see the different approaches and innovations being implemented on these sites across the country.

Last month’s featured site, from the Hinsdale (Ill.) Central High School Music Department (www.district86.k12.il.us/central/ departments/music/band.html), had a clean, easy-to-follow format with links to a variety of categories. Maintained by Jeff Waggoner, band director, music department head and Webmaster, the information-intensive site includes links to photos, concert programs from performances over the last five years, the jazz ensemble’s ongoing commissioning project and MIDI files of each instrument’s part in the halftime show.

The focus of this month’s Web Presence column is www.robinsonband.org, the site of the Robinson Band Program in Fairfax, Va. The site, developed and maintained by band parent Pam Sutey (interviewed below), with the help of high school band director Denton Stokes and middle school band director Linda Gammon, is eye-catching and easy to navigate through. At the top and the bottom of the main page are headings for each link available throughout the site: Calendar, Concert Bands, Marching Band, Middle School Band, Competitions/ Festivals/Awards, Directors, Uniforms, Photo Gallery, the band parents organization/fundraising, Student Leadership and Forms. The most attention-grabbing aspects of the site are the graphic elements in the center of the page. The words "Robinson Band," flanked by the Ram mascot, dominate the main page. Beneath the oversized letters is a rapidly changing slide show that gives the visitor a glimpse of the band in action. Other important information about the program can be found on the main page as well, such as the regularly updated running total of the band’s recent fundraiser, an invitation to register for e-mail updates about the band and background information about the school. One would never guess by looking at it that the site is only a few months old.

School Band and Orchestra: What benefits has the Web site had for the music department?

Sutey: The Robinson Band Program Web site has been alive for only a few short months but already has established itself as a source of information and fun for the Robinson band family. The site’s audience includes the high school and middle school band students, parents, school administration and faculty, the public, and prospective students. Parents can now access the site for all types of information, such as medical forms, uniform care and requirements, fees, parent meetings and volunteer opportunities. A year-round calendar is available with every rehearsal and event publicized for easy planning. Both the academic and extra-curricular facets of the band program are featured with contact information (phone and e-mail) for all the directors and parent organization board members. Most of all, the Web site has provided a whole lot of fun for the students and parents with hundreds of photos and timely announcements. Mr. Denton Stokes, the high school band director, wanted lots of photos and frequent updates. We are already successful in that goal and, in fact, this has proven to be the drawing point for the site. Once students realized photos were constantly being added, they began checking the site nightly, e-mailing links to each other and to relatives around the world. They now look for the camera at performances, hoping to be photographed for the next Web update. A digital camera has proven to be a must for the success of this goal. Photos are taken at an event, edited and uploaded within 24 hours.

SBO: When was the site first launched? How much time and planning went into it?

Sutey: The site was launched in July/August 2001. The director and Webmaster began planning and formulating the goals and layout of the site in late May 2001. The framework of the site went live in July during the quiet summer months. Band parents and students became aware of the new site during Marching Band Week in late August. An e-mail registration was launched in September for students, parents, faculty and band alumni to receive updates and information alerts. We used the back-to-school band parent meeting to publicize the site and encourage parents to use the site for forms and information. Once parents and students realized photos were being added to the site on a daily basis, usage of the site increased dramatically.

Initially, the site required many hours of planning and coding to establish the basic menu pages. Once the initial layout of the design was created, it became easier to expand and add various elements. The site was created using Dreamweaver 4, Photoshop 6.0, Adobe Acrobat 4.0, a basic knowledge of HTML, and an Olympus 2100z digital camera. The flash rollover navigation menu was in Dreamweaver 4. All the photos are cropped, edited and saved for the Web in Photoshop to reduce the size of each file. The automated Web photo album feature in Photoshop assists in the creation of the many online photo "albums." Disk storage space on the host server is a concern as the site is extremely photo intensive, so care is taken to use the optimal file resolution to save space.

SBO: Who develops and maintains the site?

Sutey: The director established the basic purpose and goals for the site. Structurally and mechanically, the Webmaster designed the navigational menus, page layouts, and site organization. Our Web host was recommended for the site based on cost and storage space. The band parent organization agreed to fund the fee for the domain name and we felt it was important to avoid banner ads and frequent down time often found when using free Web hosts. The site can be accessed through the Robinson Secondary School official Web page or through its own URL (www.robinsonband.org). Due to security concerns, only the Webmaster, with approval of the director, edits the site. No banner ads or links to commercial sites are included. The band calendar is created through an online calendar site allowing public viewing but edited only through password-protected access.

SBO: How often is the site updated?

Sutey: During marching band season, the site is updated several times a week and often daily, due to performances, competitions, back-to-school news, and fundraising events. We anticipate that during the slower winter/spring months, the site will require fewer updates but, during that time, we hope to work on some of the less critical details. Because the site is so new, we are still feeling our way through content and navigational issues. As the site is used more, we are confident our parent board, faculty, and students will find new and innovative ways to increase productivity.

SBO: What is your vision for the site?

Sutey: When I approached the director with my desire to create and manage the band program Web site, he established three goals for the site: to facilitate better communication, advertise the school to the international community, and increase awareness of musical activities to the school and the community. Establishing the Web site as a source of all band program information, we hope to bridge the teacher-to-student-to-parent communications gap. Parents can now access the site for those forms that disappear from backpacks between school and home, competition travel times, fee due dates, and upcoming meetings and events. Band alumni visit the site frequently and may register for e-mail updates to stay in touch with the program. Fairfax County is a highly transient community with many military and foreign service families. These families often "shop" for a community and school long before they actually arrive in the area. The Internet has become a vital part of that research. Robinsonband.org now offers families a wonderful view of what the program has to offer. Finally, the Web site provides visible evidence of the size, scope and sophistication of Robinson’s music programs. The number of activities and the size of financial and logistical support necessary are often not apparent to the public, parents, or even our own school administration and faculty.

As the Webmaster and visual designer of the site, my goal was to create a very clean, professional look. I avoid clip art when possible and try to use student photos as the focal point of each page. The school’s ram logo and colors of blue and gold are incorporated into the site through the text color, navigational menu, and headings. The flow of the site is based on the 12 major menu items with additional sub-pages found through those links. "Hot" updates or important items, which change from day to day or week to week, are found on the home page under a JavaScript slide show. The rotating slide show is created with a dozen photos from the most recent performance and serves to "tease" the visitor and encourage a click on the photo link.

Finally, the goal of the Robinson Band Program Web site is to share with the public, students, parents, faculty, and friends of the band the feeling of pride and excellence found in all aspects of the band program at Robinson Secondary School.

 

Questions about this site? Please email: bandwebmaster(at)robinsonband.org
Digital photos for inclusion on this site may be emailed to the webmaster.
2008 - Robinson Band. All rights reserved. All content and images are exclusive property of
Robinson Secondary School Band Program and may not be reproduced (in whole or part) without
written permission. 5035 Sideburn Road, Fairfax, VA 22032