In the heat of the summer, most students want to spend their days indoors with the air conditioning on full blast. But the dedicated students of Plant City High School’s marching band aren’t afraid to take a little heat. In the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, students have been preparing for the new marching season under their new band director, Joshua Blair.
Blair, who grew up in Pinellas County, comes to PCHS from Sickles High School, where he was the band director from 2009 to 2013. Prior to that, he taught at Sarasota High School and Cypress Lake High School Center for the Arts. Although he grew up with a mother who was a pianist, Blair didn’t decide to pursue a music-related career until he was done with his undergraduate studies.
At age 3, Blair’s mother began teaching him piano, which he played until he was 10. In fourth grade, he picked up what would become his primary instrument: the alto saxophone.
Blair attended Stetson University, where he earned degrees in political science and humanities, in addition to taking music classes. He had plans to go to law school but decided that music was much more interesting and teaching was much more rewarding. He stayed at Stetson for one extra year to earn a bachelor’s degree in music, and later earned his master’s degree in saxophone performance and instrumental conducting from the University of South Florida. He has performed as a conductor at Carnegie Hall twice, once with Cypress Lake and once with Sickles High School. Blair also was a conductor for Southwest Florida Youth Orchestra from 2007 to 2009.
He is working towards getting his PhD in music education and often performs with the Florida Wind Band.
“I just love performing music,” Blair said.
His musical tastes are diverse, as well. His wife, Amber, is an opera singer and a former PCHS choir director. In addition to opera music, Blair enjoys classical music and ‘80s classic rock.
As the new band director at PCHS, Blair is looking forward to getting back to basics.
PLANS FOR PLANT CITY
Currently, Blair has about 70 students under his direction, including winds, percussion and color guard. Blair hopes the band will grow in the future, eventually encompassing 10% of Plant City’s 2,400 students.
“It will take six to eight years,” he said.
The first step is to work with the feeder middle schools. Support of the administration and directors at these schools will encourage students to pursue band as they enter high school. Blair has plans to work with the directors at both Marshall and Tomlin Middle schools.
“I’m excited to work with them … to grow their programs so we can increase our numbers here at Plant City High School as well,” Blair said.
Blair has already talked with Jay DeDon, the Marshall Middle School band director, about having PCHS students tutor the middle school’s band members. Blair said he is working to have this done at Tomlin as well.
Besides injecting students with a love of music across the board, Blair plans to go back to basics with his students this year.
“Music is enjoyable,” he said. “But, playing an instrument, you don’t get instant gratification.”
Blair plans on working with students on their music fundamentals, no matter what ability level they have. He encourages all students to practice for at least 30 minutes each day.
“If you have a good foundation, you have a better chance to succeed,” he said. “Learn the fundamentals and go off of that.”
Blair’s classes this year include one band class, as well as one class each for color guard, percussion, jazz band and orchestra. He will also be teaching Advanced Placement music theory.
Although some schools determine band classes based on ability, Blair believes that having all band students together in one setting is a positive thing.
“I think it’s more practical, especially for our size,” he said, noting that beginner students will have more time to be around those more experienced. “You never want to give up anything you try the first time around.”
Blair plans to continue working on fundamentals with the marching band too.
“We’re focusing on fundamentals and techniques so we can sound good and march well,” Blair said.
The marching band will be performing four pieces in the halftime show during football games. Although band camp was only for two weeks, Blair made sure that students worked on marching basics, drills, sectionals and ensembles. He plans on all ensembles doing well at their Musical Performance Assessments as the school year progresses, along with the school concerts.
“I’m so laid back and flexible,” Blair said. “We’re going to do what we do.”
Contact Emily Topper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
Upcoming concert dates:
Winter Concert: Dec. 10, 7 p.m.
Jazz Concert: May 3, 7 p.m.
Spring Concert: May 19, 7 p.m.