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Spotlight: Blake Garcia Brings New Perspective to Mercer’s Band

Blake Garcia started playing the trumpet in the third grade. Photo by Anthony Willing.

Blake Garcia started playing the trumpet in the third grade. Photo by Anthony Willing.

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Blake Garcia, director of athletic bands at Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music, started playing the trumpet in the third grade. The son of a classical guitarist, Garcia said that his whole family has been involved with music at some point.

Although originally an aspiring performer, Garcia said he realized he wanted to direct when he began giving lessons.

Garcia was appointed the new Director of Athletic Bands in May. Although leadership transitions are often difficult for bands, he said the band has been taking it well.

“The energy within the band has been wonderful,” Garcia said. “My goal is for them to have a good time while still being challenged and still having quality music in front of them.”

Garcia said he knew Mercer was a good fit when he saw how much the Townsend School of Music values students’ opinions.  

“If they enjoy playing it, they’ll continue to play it,” Garcia said.

Garcia, a former doctoral conducting associate at the University of Kentucky, said he has had success with recruitment and retention in new bands in the past.

“We have some amazing high schools, I mean, all over the state of Georgia,” Garcia said. “Moving forward, if the students are having a great time, there is immense potential.”

Garcia said the band will see a move to more entertainment-focused performances, giving students and audiences a chance to have fun with their programs. The band will also be doing multiple shows in one season.

“(Performances) will be things that people will know, things they can grasp, things that they can sing, maybe grew up listening to,” he said.

Garcia said focusing on entertainment will allow students to enjoy playing their instrument without the stress of competition.

“At this point, they’ve played probably at least seven years on their instrument,” The band director said. “That’s my goal, just to have them keep playing their instrument and having fun with it.”

Second year band members Claudia Newsom and Alex Donnelly said despite the difficult transition into being under new leadership, they feel good about the band looking ahead.

“It’s been a rocky road,” Newsom said. “It’s definitely gonna take a few more years to really get comfortable, but I can already see a vast improvement and a lot of growth.”

Newsom, who is the captain of the color guard, said Garcia’s attitude has helped her deal with the stress of being captain.

“He definitely treats us like his kids but also his colleagues, and it’s a really nice balance,” she said.

Donnelly, who is on the drumline, said he appreciates Garcia’s attention to the opinions of the students.

“After every practice, he’s always asking, ‘What are some things that were bad during this practice? What are some things we can do to fix it?’” Donnelly said.

Newsom said that Garcia is a director students can look up to and respect.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” Newsom said. “To me, the foundation of a band starts with the director and builds itself up.”

Garcia said that the Mercer athletic bands can look forward to more growth and exposure in the coming years.

“One of my goals is to start doing performances outside of the state of Georgia,” Garcia said. “Sort of putting our band out there as a university, as an athletic bands program.”

Garcia also said he will be implementing more recruiting techniques to expand the band, such as the high school band day on Sept. 22, where prospective members can “be a Mercer band member for the day.”

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Spotlight: Blake Garcia Brings New Perspective to Mercer’s Band