The City of Fairfax Band Association (CFBA) has selected composer and trumpeter Finn Marks, a member of Northern Virginia Youth Winds and a McLean High School senior, as the association’s 2021 Young Artist. Marks receives a $2000 award and, when live indoor concerts resume, one of his compositions will be played at a City of Fairfax Band concert. In the Award’s 26-year history, he is the first to win for composition.
“Wow!” He couldn’t say “Wow” enough after learning he will receive the Young Artist Award. “I really didn’t expect this. Wow! Nothing like this has happened to me before!”
Drum Major of the McLean High School Highlander Marching Band, Marks also plays in the Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble, and various small ensembles. He started trumpet in fifth grade and progressed through Longfellow Middle School and McLean. He has studied privately with Air Force musicians Jim Bittner and Matt Misener.
In ninth grade, Marks composed a piece for wind ensemble (a smaller concert band). He has written a few more pieces for wind ensemble, and many compositions for piano as well as for chamber ensembles.
His composition mentors are Chris Weise, McLean Highlanders band director, and Brett Dodson, Northern Virginia Youth Winds (NVYW) director. “Mr. Weise has helped me refine all my compositions and provided insight on topics such as orchestration and phrasing, as well as instrumental considerations,“ he said. Dodson has offered further assistance with composition.
Among Marks’ early steps into music was curiosity about his uncle’s abandoned trumpet, “just laying around the house.” It led him to choose to play the instrument when he was 10-years-old. That musical interest has been passed to his two younger siblings, who play French horn and saxophone.
In addition to music at McLean High School, Marks has played in his local district bands. He also is in the Northern Virginia Youth Winds (an ensemble of the CFBA); the Northern Virginia All Stars Jazz Band; and a contemporary ensemble at his church.
Marks enjoys helping younger music students. He has exercised this interest as a volunteer playing assistant at his local area band (grades five and six) and as a volunteer assistant at the Vienna Band Camp (grades four to nine).
Although the 2020 COVID pandemic cancelled most of his music activities, Marks was able to carry on online with NVYW. Music Director Dodson provided online sessions using “innovative approaches that offered challenges covering a variety of skill levels.” Marks said, “The NVYW program kept me engaged and helped me to hold on to a sense of normalcy.”
More engagement during COVID has come through band at McLean High School, which rehearsed virtually until March. During its period of virtual activity, the program produced two videos featuring McLean ensembles. Since in-person rehearsals started, band ensembles meet every-other day under strict COVID protocols. For Marks and his fellow trumpet players that means wearing a special face mask and using a cover over his trumpet’s bell.
Outside of music, Finn runs with a running club and, along with his family, delivers meals to senior citizens in the District of Columbia. He also brings music to retirement homes.
Where will this interest in writing and playing music, being in band, and helping others, especially younger musicians, lead? Marks plans to enter James Madison University next fall as a Music Education major. His goal is to become a band director.
When the City of Fairfax Band Association resumes indoor concerts, the City of Fairfax Band will perform one of Finn’s compositions.
Since 1996, The City of Fairfax Band Association has sponsored its Young Artist Competition to encourage the development of stand-out high school musicians who plan to pursue a musical career.