Kid Pan Alley enlists Col. John Bourgeois for Rapp High School concert

Can you imagine what it would be like to play songs you wrote with your high school band and have those songs arranged and conducted by one of the foremost band directors in the world?

Well, that’s what’s happening for the band at Rappahannock High School in a special residency with Kid Pan Alley songwriters Paul Reisler and Cheryl Toth along with Col. John Bourgeois, the former director of “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band.

Reisler and Toth will be writing songs with the students at Rappahannock High from January 8-10. Then, Col. Bourgeois will arrange the songs for the band and conduct them in their spring concert. Bourgeois is also working on a combined choral and band arrangement of the Kid Pan Alley song, “I Do Love Virginia” — originally recorded by Sissy Spacek — for the concert.

While Kid Pan Alley has done a number of projects with symphony orchestras, this is the first one involving a high school band writing and performing their own songs.

Says Col. Bourgeois: One of the true treasures that we have in Rappahannock is Kid Pan Alley. The program, which was created by our local pied piper Paul Reisler, promotes community awareness of the arts while creating opportunities for children to explore their creativity through songwriting in a school setting.”

Colonel Bourgeois was the 25th Director of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. His acclaimed career spanned nine presidential administrations, from Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower to Bill Clinton.

As director of “The President’s Own,” Bourgeois was Music Advisor to the White House. He selected the musical program and directed the band on its traditional place of honor at the U.S. Capitol for four presidential inaugurations, a Marine Band tradition dating to 1801. He regularly conducted the Marine Band and the Marine Chamber Orchestra at the White House, appearing there more frequently than any other musician in the nation.

The Washington Post’s chief music critic wrote, “Bourgeois leaves his ensemble in terrific shape; indeed, it would be hard to imagine any band playing with greater vigor, precision, and timbral variety . . . Washington is very generous with its standing ovations. But Bourgeois deserved each and every one he received last night.”

He’s also an esteemed composer and arranger of American music.

Kid Pan Alley’s Reisler will lead next week’s songwriting workshops. He’s written thousands of songs with over 50,000 children across the country since he founded Kid Pan Alley right here in Rappahannock County in 1999.

You can donate to this year’s unique project at or by mail to Kid Pan Alley, PO Box 38, Washington, Va., 22747. All donations are being matched by KPA board members and a grant from the Lykes Fund of the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation.

“The enormous success of this program deserves the support of all public minded citizens and patrons of the arts,” Bourgeois notes.

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