It’s been over a decade since the Land O’ Lakes High School band performed at states.
That wait is over.
The school’s symphonic band will join more than 40 other Florida high schools on April 23 at the State North High School Concert Band Music Performance Assessment (MPA) at Flagler Palm Coast High School, in Palm Coast.
Mitchell High School is the only other public school in Pasco County performing at the meet.
Land O’ Lakes qualified for the state competition after earning straight superior ratings—the highest mark possible — at a district MPA meet in early March at Hernando High School.
The program has met state performance requirements for the meet in previous years, but hasn’t made the trip in 14 years, for a variety of reasons.
First-year Land O’ Lakes band director Johnathon Mulder said one of his main objectives heading into the school year was to take the band to states, if the ensemble qualified.
“This is a big deal to the program because they haven’t gone to the tournament in a really long time,” said Mulder, who previously served as a band teacher for six years at Lakeland’s Kathleen Middle School.
The Land O’ Lakes band consists of more than 70 students, including 19 seniors.
With such a large group, the school district’s fine arts program coordinator, Tom Viking recently helped offset the cost for a second school bus so each student could make the three-hour trip to Palm Coast.
But, the band director also wants to provide meals for each student for the daylong affair. He has set a fundraising goal of $1,100 by April 13.
Band students also have been given sponsorship sheets to raise money.
“We’re just looking for the community to kind of rally behind us and support us, and help those families that can’t fully afford meals,” Mulder said.
At the state competition, Land O’ Lakes will play three prepared pieces before a panel of judges made up of college professors and retired music directors.
With it being the band’s first trip to state since 2004, Mulder has set reasonable expectations, hoping students relish the experience and just try their best.
“While it would be wonderful to go and get straight superiors again at the state level, this is a new experience for all of us,” Mulder said. “For us, what’s going to be successful is going there, preparing the best we can, and putting on the best performance possible. If that results in straight superiors, awesome. And, if it doesn’t, then you know what…I just hope we walk off the stage happy with what we did.”
Besides reaching states, the band performed well throughout the year at events like Lion’s Pride Festival at King High School and Festival of Winds at the University of South Florida, Mulder said.
Individual students were named to all-state and all-county teams, too.
Mulder credited the students’ hard work and dedication, and faith in him as a bandleader, as some reasons for success.
“They blow my mind a lot,” the teacher said. “Since Day One, I’ve kind of had it in my head that this is one of those bands in Pasco County that should be phenomenal.”
Senior band captain Jacob Barber is excited for the group to be making its first trip to states.
“As seniors, the fact we get to go to state MPA is a pretty big deal; it feels pretty good,” said Barber, who has had three different band directors in four years.
“I feel like there’s been a lot more growth this year than there has been in previous years… so I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Junior saxophone leader Josh Mellin said, “It’s humbling because we haven’t been to a prestigious thing like this in a while.
“Mr. Mulder this year has introduced a lot of new opportunities to us to take as musicians,” added Mellin, whose father is Ric Mellin, principal at Land O’ Lakes High.
“The experience for this year has been unlike my freshman or sophomore year. I’ve had a lot more fun. I’ve seen a lot of people grow, and I hope that (Mulder) stays here for a long time,” he added.
Anonymous donations also can be mailed to the school, at 20325 Gator Lane in Land O’ Lakes, Florida, 34638.
Published April 5, 2018