a group of young people standing on a stage
Plantation Key School band members pose with the first-place trophy in the Universal Studios Music USA Band Competition in Orlando on March 15. CONTRIBUTED

A group of 33 young musicians from Plantation Key School achieved best band status and a first-place trophy during a recent competition at Orlando’s Universal Studios.

Last month, members of the PKS middle school band and director Katharine Yarbrough participated in the Music USA Band Competition with other music groups across the country. The bright lights, big stage and three prestigious judges from Stetson University didn’t faze the talented group as they played “Polaris March” by John Edmonson and “Discovery Overture” by Anne McGinty. Yarbrough, who enters year seven as elementary music teacher at PKS, said the group began preparations for the competition back in January. 

A grand award ceremony concluded the competition at Universal with PKS named the big winner for its flawless performance. Yarbrough said the first-place finish is a testament to the musicians’ hard work and dedication to their craft. 

“It was really a special moment to watch their faces light up and accept the trophy,” she said. 

The Plantation Key School band and director Katharine Yarbrough perform onstage during the Music USA Band Competition at Universal Studios in Orlando on March 15. CONTRIBUTED

Hardware hoisted by the musicians currently sits in Yarbrough’s band room. Yarbrough said she couldn’t be prouder of her group of musicians, who include sixth- through eighth-graders. Half of the young musicians just started playing with the middle school band, she said. 

“I think it’s becoming quite the culture to want to be involved and play music with each other. That’s been my goal from the start,” said Yarbrough, who has a degree in music and vocal performance and a master’s in elementary education. She was a private music teacher in West Palm Beach before coming to the Keys to lead the music program at Plantation Key School. 

Yarbrough said she plans to enter the band in competitions next year. Those wishing to see the band can stop by for its next performance on May 2 at Coral Shores High School’s Performing Arts Center. 

More than anything, Yarbrough said she hopes the band’s accomplishment encourages younger students to continue music paths and join the band.

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.