Music joins family and friends: Q&A with Phil Thomas

By Allison Werner

Editor’s Note: This is an addition to a story published in the print publication.

Q&A session with Highland Hills Middle School band director Phil Thomas.

Phil Thomas: I am the band director at HHMS, the assistant director of the FC marching band, and I am also the director of the IUS concert band. I am also the assistant bugler at Churchill Downs! This is my 28th year teaching band in the NA-FC schools.

Bagpiper: When did you see Christian take an interest in music?

PT: Christian showed an interest in music at a very early age. He has always loved to sing. Being a band director and a musician myself, we always had instruments sitting around the house, especially brass instruments. Christian always loved to get his hands on them and experiment with making sounds.

BP: How does your musical background influence Christian?

PT: I think my musical background (as well as my wife’s) has influenced Christian in that there has always been music in our house. Since infancy, he heard either recorded or live music played at home practically every day. As he has gotten older, I think that my musical background has helped guide and coach him in his musical pursuits. Although at times, I am sure it has been a little frustrating for Christian having a professional musician and brass player living in the same house. He can tell you how many times he has been practicing in our basement at home only to have the basement door open and hear “Your second positions are a little low!” or “Are you sure you don’t want to run that last section again, SLOWER?” What I would have given to have a live-in brass coach at my house when I was growing up! (I guess it’s different when it’s your dad though.)

BP: How much time does music take up in Christian’s life?

PT: Music takes up a great deal of Christian’s time. I am sure he has told you about all of the groups in which he plays. This is on top of weekly trombone and piano lessons (and the practicing that goes along with them) as well as his own private students. And of course he is also one the FC pipers. All of the serious musicians at this school put in that kind of time though. It is what they love and what they do. As my wife and I have told Christian: “To whom much is given, much is required.”

BP: Were you always hoping your son would be involved with music?

PT: When Christian was growing up, we tried to make a conscious effort to not force him into music. We got him involved in a variety of activities and let him gravitate to what he enjoyed the most. Although, truth be told, I must admit that I am glad that it worked out to be music. It is especially enjoyable when Christian and I get the opportunity to perform together, such as in the pit orchestra for a musical or in the IUS orchestra.

BP: Do you have high expectations when it comes to music?

PT: Yes, I do have high expectations when it comes to music, both as a director and a performer. It is a very demanding discipline, but there is no greater reward for a musician than to perform challenging music extremely well.

PT: As far as anything else to add, I would just like to say how proud I am of my son and all of his musical accomplishments over the years. I am also very proud of the fact that he plans on majoring in music (and history) in college with the plan of one day being a Marine Band musician.

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