Woodlake student hits national stage for FFA band

Diego Headrick, a student at Woodlake High School, is one of 50 FFA students throughout the nation who performed at the 95th National Future Farmers of America Convention & Expo

WOODLAKE – A Woodlake High School student made strides for his small town after playing for thousands alongside the Future Farmers of America’s National Band.

Woodlake High School’s (WHS) Diego Headrick, a senior this year, was one of three students picked from the state of California for the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Band. He became part of 50 students in the ensemble that stretches across the nation, and performed in front of roughly 65,000 FFA members at each general session of this year’s 95th National FFA Convention & Expo, which took place in Indianapolis, Ind. on Oct. 24 through Oct. 30.

“As we got to the stage after rehearsing, I was just so excited for them to hear us and to listen to us, because we worked really hard throughout that whole week [leading up to the conference],” Headrick said. “Just being able to perform in front of people like that was really exciting.”

Headrick began playing instruments in fifth grade, and throughout his time in his school band he picked up a clarinet. He has played it ever since, and has never had any form of clarinet lessons outside of school. Headrick said he enjoys band because he is able to express himself through the tunes he is playing. 

“My love for music just kept getting stronger and stronger throughout the years, and then when I got to high school, I just loved the high school band. It’s been so much fun,” Headrick said.

His love for music and FFA combined after his teacher, Elizabeth Thornburg, told him about the national FFA convention. When he learned about the national band, he said he didn’t apply right away. He thought about it a lot throughout his junior year, and then thought about it more in the summer, Headrick said. Then in July, he decided to send in an application and audition tape. Not too long after, he and his clarinet hit the stage at the national convention.

“I got to learn all about different people, and make these connections in the band,” Headrick said. “It was so cool, because I got to meet people from places that I really didn’t think agriculture was at, which was just amazing.”

Headrick’s FFA student career doesn’t stop there, though. He has spent two years as the FFA reporter, and this year he became the vice president of the Woodlake chapter. Even more, he is the Sequoia Section FFA President, where he oversees the activities that schools within the county participate in together. 

As the Sequoia section’s president, he also represents the section to industry partners, community and state leadership. One of the most exciting things he has done for the section is come together with the section officers for a leadership conference, where they discussed how to help FFA members in the county chapters.

“We wanted to give real life situation workshops that we felt FFA students could take back to their chapters and everything else in between,” Headrick said. “That way, they can better their community, their chapters, or even the world.”

Within the Woodlake chapter, Headrick participated in FFA public speaking for four years, as well as the meat evaluation team, the state champion citrus B team and has competed in livestock showing at the Tulare County Fair, where he presented both heifers and pigs. 

Headrick does not want to pursue a career in agriculture, but did say that his time in FFA did give him the skills he needed as an adult, as it pertains to leadership and communication. Headrick would like to have a career in the medical field. Since WHS does not offer medical pathways, his agriculture classes gave him a taste of biology and helped familiarize him with the world of science. 

“FFA has helped me so much throughout my life, and has helped me gain public speaking skills, and gain some of those soft skills I feel every student needs to prepare for the world or college,” Headrick said. “I feel like that really helped shape me and helped me be more personable with others.”

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