Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Band director bound for China

The work of Robert Sax will echo in the halls of Coral Shores High School.

For 15 years, Sax has been employed at the Upper Keys high school, serving one year as an algebra teacher and the rest running the music program.

When he first applied for the music director's position in 1999, he wasn't offered the job because the school wanted to focus on developing a marching band, an area where the jazz pianist had less of a background.

But a year later, the school offered him the gig.

"I didn't apply for it again," Sax said. "I didn't know if I wanted it."

His acceptance, however, has benefited the school, which has collected a number of state honors under Sax's tenure.

Sax leaves Coral Shores this week to travel to Oregon, where he will finish graduate studies in conducting. From there, he may make a brief pit stop in the Florida Keys, but it's off to Beijing, China, where he will spend two years instructing a music program at a public high school of about 5,000 students.

"It was getting time to do it," Sax said. "If I was going to go, it had to be now."

The band director said his request for a two-year extension on his employment at Coral Shores was denied by Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter, who offered a one-year extension instead. So Sax decided to roll the dice and head overseas.

Sax says many of his students have moved on to pursue careers in music, a process he has enjoyed watching.

Ryan Raines, 19, an upcoming sophomore at Florida State University, described Sax as an easy-going, common-sense educator.

"I don't know where I'd be without him," said the ex-drumline captain who aspires to be a music producer. "I want to produce music at the highest level."

Last week in his office, Sax was surrounded by stacks of paper. Moving out has taken weeks of effort, he said. Marching band students gathered one or two at a time to ask questions and make requests.

"Can I get the key to the uniform room?" one asked.

"Where do we put the bass drums?" another questioned.

"Can you sign this?" said a third who pushed a piece of paper in front of Sax.

Even during his final days, it was business as usual for the band director who described his job as "organized chaos."

The students, however, weren't treating the situation as if it were the last they would see of the band director.

Neither was Sax.

"I hope to come back," he said. "This is home and hopefully I'll be back."

jgore@keysnews.com

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