THOMASVILLE -- For one local man music is indeed the universal language.

James Banks has been operating Banks Music for almost six years and, in those years, he has taught 150 students, children and adults ranging in age from 5-71.

"Music is the universal language because it does not matter what tongue that you speak," he said. "One thing about music is when music is playing there will always be a head bobbing or foot tapping."

Banks was born and raised in Thomasville, graduating from Thomasville High School in 1974. He attended Mercer University where he obtained a biology degree and spent a few years working as chemical analyst in a laboratory.

Then he realized his true vision was to teach music.

"I always played and had a fondness for music and I just decided that I wanted to give it a shot," said Banks.

So, he left the lab and embarked on his quest to teach others the importance of music education.

His instrument of choice is the piano but he also plays various brass instruments. Banks is a member of local Yesterdaz's band and plays the tuba or baritone, depending on which instrument is most needed for performances.

He is also a member of The Evening Shades, a classical, jazz and easy listening three piece with Banks and two female singers.

Banks also regularly performs on weekends at Melhana Plantation and has played for Gov. Jeb Bush in Florida.

He attends Saint Mark AME Church and is married to Betty. They have four children and four grandchildren.

Banks's main motivation for teaching music is to reach out to children and pass on his love and appreciation of it.

He pointed out how music and other arts subjects are being taken out of the school systems and said kids need those outlets.

"That's my drive," said Banks. "We need it. Kids need it. Parents need it. It is very therapeutic."

He also said it was best to introduce children to music at an early age.

When the day arrives that Banks can no longer continue passing on his love of music, he knows that someone else will pick up where he left off.

"I'll continue to live through it through my students," he said.

He currently has 45 students and has held one major recital at the Thomasville Cultural Center but is planning another one.

Banks's favorite thing about Thomasville is size.

"It's not too big, but it's not too small," he said. "There's character here that you cannot find everywhere. It's just a warm place to stay."

He said Thomasville is a place to be reckoned with but felt that a few more amenities for youth would attract more industries and keep the younger generation in the area.

"We live in a computer age now and most of the people that are involved in the jobs that technical are of a younger generation. In order to be able to hold them here, we've got to give them something and we've got to be able to attract those industries that would bring those people in here."

Banks also hoped that more people in the community would take an interest in the arts for the kids.

"Music encompasses all aspects of education," he said. "There's foreign language, mathematics, history, all of that is in music."

Banks applauded the Cultural Center's recent "Music Under the Oaks" event.

"That was one of the greatest ideas in the last few years," he said. "Even at Rose Show, I've wondered why we didn't use more local talent in the park."

He also said that there should be more events like "Music Under the Oaks" in the community on a regular basis.

Banks said Thomasville should have some place for musicians to play on weekends. He mentioned Broad Street and downtown as a good venue for staging performances.

"This is a lovely city," said Banks. "We've just got to do things to keep it alive in people's eyes. It does not have to be a boring city. It's beautiful from one end to the other, but we've just got to revitalize that. I think that music on the streets is going to help that."

For more information about Banks Music, call (229) 227-6448.

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