Jonathan Stephens has two seemingly disparate passions — agriculture and music.
But the Windermere High School senior will have the opportunity to combine those two passions for the first time this fall.
“I don’t think agriculture and music are very, traditionally, mixable,” Stephens said. “It’s a blessing to have the National FFA organization be able to sponsor such a great opportunity for … musicians who want to be able to express themselves and show it to their FFA friends and agriculture buddies.”
Stephens has been selected to play the bass drum in the National FFA Band during the 92nd annual National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2. He’s the local FFA district secretary and vice president of the Windermere High FFA chapter. He has been involved with FFA since before he started high school.
“I’ve been in the FFA for about six years, and this will be my seventh year,” Stephens said. “I’ve been doing it since middle school, and I think what really excited me about (FFA) in middle school was when I met my first adviser. She was very energetic and inspiring (for me) to get to know about (FFA).”
Initially, Stephens wasn’t sure about how much he would like agriculture, but he grew to love it over time. Once he reached high school he was able to get more involved with FFA, which helped grow his love of agriculture.
“I didn’t realize how much I really (would) love agriculture,” Stephens said. “I always wanted to be a detective or a chef, and I was able to really mix a lot of those different industries together and kind of find my niche within agriculture, so it just kept growing and growing. And when I got to high school, I was able to get more active (with FFA) and now I’m here today.”
One aspect of FFA that kept Stephens involved was the sense of community among program members.
“It’s so cliché for everyone to say, ‘Oh, this is like a family,’ or something like, ‘Oh, this is really where I belong,’” he said. “But you really do feel that way (in FFA). From being able to compete next to friends … to being able to meet (political) representatives — that’s the stuff that’s really inspiring and really pushes a lot for me to keep on going in this organization. It’s that sense of unity and growth.”
Stephens enjoys that same sense of community in the school band program, for which he plays percussion. Although he took piano lessons early on, he only has been involved with the band program since his freshman year.
“Freshman year, I accidentally got put into band class with a whole bunch of these freshmen — as my band director would call (them) — goofballs,” Stephens said. “I was able to really enjoy being around those people and being able to … express myself through a different medium than just talking or being able to write something. I can do it through music, which is so universal.”
Although his senior year has just begun, Stephens plans to continue pursuing his passion for agriculture and music in college. He’s still debating which college to attend but mentioned the University of Florida and University of Central Florida as being on his radar.
“I want to be a music composer on the side,” Stephens said. “I know music is not the most secure (job) industry in the world, but I want to be able to at least have my hand in being able to compose for marching band music, or even … concert music and be able to go out into some contemporary (music).
“With agriculture, I’m stuck between agricultural communications — which is being able to effectively communicate agriculture (and) be more of like a representative … (for) agricultural industries in need of those kinds of communicators,” he said. “Either that, or I’d go into food science, which would be an industry that deals with the different aspects of food, the chemistry of it and stuff that I’m really passionate about — the mathematics (and) the science. That really bridges everything together.”