INDIANAPOLIS – The captivating, symphonic sound of the National FFA Band is a long-standing tradition at the National FFA Convention & Expo, and for the past 25 years, Joe LaJoye of Hastings, Mich., has proudly conducted the hundreds of musically talented FFA members who have played for him. This year, however, will be his last directing the band.
“The band has continued to evolve, but we’ve worked really hard to put the focus more on the students,” LaJoye reflected. “We decided we would have the students announce the selections. That evolved into having students try out for solo opportunities. It’s become more of a symphonic show band than a serious concert band.”
Each year, LaJoye sees the musical inspiration the members get from being in the ensemble. “A student came here one year for FFA band. She said the band program back at her school was being eliminated. She left here inspired and went home and was a part of getting her school band program reinstated. She came back the following year with a great success story. That stands out in my memory.”
With 25 years of memories, LaJoye’s friendships with the students are the most meaningful. “I think what is most memorable is what this means to the students. By the end of the week, they’ve developed these relationships from working together. It’s really hard to say goodbye for them and for us.” LaJoye’s wife, Patti, is also retiring as the director of the National FFA Chorus.
LaJoye sees promise in his assistant, Spencer White, who will be the band’s next director. “The future is very bright. We have a very talented young director who is also from Hastings, Mich. I suggested we bring Spencer in because I have high regard for him. He’s been with us now for three years, and FFA said he’s the man, so Spencer will take over at the 2018 convention.”
Stay tuned for live coverage of the National FFA Band and Chorus concert Friday at 6 p.m. in Bankers Life Fieldhouse at ffanewhorizons.org. Watch the 2016 concert below.
Lauren Schwab is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She works full time on her family’s pig farm as the farrowing house manager. She is a freelance writer and blogger at farmgirlwithcurls.com.