High school band programs have fun without competition.
Depending on the traffic it can take 20 minutes or more to drive from one high school to the other in Flagler County, but the teaching concepts of the two band directors are as if they are in the same room.
The first thing John Seth, band director at Flagler Palm Coast High School, and Keith Dodson, band director at Matanzas High School, will tell you is they are not in competition and their bands do not enter competitions.
“I am anti-competition,” Dodson said. “I don’t believe in what it stands for. Our county philosophy is that music education gives the students the opportunity to be ranked on their individual playing. You can’t compare a band of 100 to a band of 300.”
Two weeks ago the bands, along with the Seabreeze High School marching band, took to the FPC football field in front of parents and judges, for an all-out dress rehearsal for the upcoming Florida Music Performance Assessments. The judges were there to make notes and offer last minute observations about the band and band member’s performances.
Matanzas will perform at Fleming High School in Orange Park this Saturday, Oct. 24. FPC’s homecoming is this weekend so the band will delay their assessment one week and travel to Columbia High School in Lake County on Oct. 31 for their music performance assessments.
Seth credits FPC’s resurgence in band participation to two retired band directors who came before him, Dean Cassels and Buddy Ball, who drove together from Starke every day to teach at the high school.
“We had 30 to 50 band members and in their first year they increased the number to 85. It was 130 when I came,” Seth said. “We now have 205.”
The FPC program has 40 seniors graduating this year which would logically drop the total down to 165, but Seth is not worried because he knows he has between 75 and 85 Buddy Taylor Middle School band members who will be joining the FPC band next year.
The Matanzas band is only losing 17 members through graduation, but the band’s numbers will explode as Dodson expects about 89 new members from Indian Trails Middle School, raising their band participation to 172 members.
Seth has been band director at FPC for the past nine years, while Dodson was hired this past July. Both are very active with the middle school programs because they know that’s where their future band members are tuning up.
“The high school band success is due to the middle school feeder program,” Seth said.
Dodson echoed the same sentiments, saying the high school bands wouldn’t survive without the middle school programs.
“They are teaching the kids from the ground up,” Dodson said.
Both men spend time at their respective middle schools getting to know their rising high school students and planning the future of their bands.
Dodson and Seth agreed that student’s grades benefit from band participation, and that most of their members are A and B students.
“We are building a family here with the band programs,” Seth said. “We are fortunate to have the ability to see the kids all year for several years. That creates a unique atmosphere.”