Inspiring Okeechobee: Clint LaFlam is never leaving Okeechobee High School

OKEECHOBEE — Born and raised in Okeechobee, Clint LaFlam graduated from Okeechobee High School in 2001 and went on to Florida Southern in Lakeland, majoring in Music Education. During his last year of high school, Mr. LaFlam said he had the unique opportunity to take charge of the band because his band director was on maternity leave throughout band camp and the first month of school. Because he was the band captain, he was expected to take charge, and that’s what he did.

Band director Clint LaFlam and his family. Mr. LaFlam says Okeechobee is his home and he is here to stay. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News.

Mr. LaFlam was also an avid baseball player, and he said he was the only music ed major and baseball player at Florida Southern. His baseball coach arranged for him to apply for a music scholarship because he felt he would have a better chance to get a scholarship that way, and it turned out he was right. He graduated in 2006 and taught in Lakeland for one year before getting a call from his former band director in Okeechobee telling him she was thinking of moving. He said when he learned there would soon be an opening in Okeechobee, he jumped on it, because Okeechobee is his home, and he loves it here. This is his twelfth year teaching at the Okeechobee High School, and he said he is never leaving!

He explained he was supposed to be opening a new school in Polk County before coming home to teach in Okeechobee, and he has had seven high schools offered since he has been back, but he has no regrets. He plans to be here forever. This is his home. This is his program, and it’s going to be forever.

According to Mr. LaFlam, the band program had 71 members the year he started and now has 175.

“It’s the culture,” he explained. “Band is now a sixth through 12th-grade program. The quality rises year after year. And the best part,” he went on, “is the kids are doing it all. They talk other kids into joining. They convince each other it’s their opportunity to be part of something great.” Mr. LaFlam said middle school teachers are very helpful in the recruitment effort but keeping the kids involved once they reach high school can be difficult. These kids are not used to putting in so much time and effort, but once they understand what is expected, and once they see the end goal, they usually get on board, he explained.

Several of Mr. LaFlam’s students have gone on to study music in college: two of them graduating with degrees in music education from Florida Southern, and one of them is now a middle school band director. He said numerous former students played in the University of Florida band and in other university and community groups.

“Change isn’t bad,” said Mr. LaFlam. “I get better every year because I try to learn from what we did this year. What the kids do this year forms what future kids will do. It’s all about the kids.”

One of Mr. LaFlam’s favorite things about living in a small town is you see the same kid you taught in high school ten years later walking into Publix with his wife and kids. “I love this town, and I love these kids,” he said. “Every one of them.”

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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