Passion for living
Oldest College of the Arts student setting new goals and still eager to learn
KENNESAW‚ Ga. (Dec. 10, 2015) — Even at age 70, George Blevins is not one of those to blow his own horn, especially about the huge projects he worked on as an architect and later as a real estate developer in metro Atlanta.
But you couldn’t blame the professional trombonist if he literally does so when he graduates from Kennesaw State University this month, because he will set a record.
“I’ve been told that no one at my age has ever graduated from the KSU School of Music before.”
Blevins, who turned 70 in June, is on track to complete his bachelor’s degree in music performance in trombone.
Life hasn’t been an easy street for Blevins, but the ardent goal-setter has always found a way.
“When you have a dream, you should pursue it with all your might and pay whatever price is required to realize it. When difficulties come – and they will – don't quit, just keep going.”
As an architect, he is associated with a number of high-profile buildings in metro Atlanta – including CNN Center, a substantial portion of which he designed while working for TVS Architects. As a developer, he shouldered major responsibilities as a vice president with The Landmarks Group in the creation and management of the Concourse, often referred to as the “King and Queen” buildings at Ga. 400 and I-285, along with another major high-rise building, Promenade in Midtown.
In 1991, he shared his development insights as the co-author of a popular 800-page textbook for Prentice Hall.
But little did he suspect something that happened in 1980 would change his life’s trajectory over the next several decades. One day, while attending church and listening to the orchestra play, it struck him that although he enjoyed his development career, something was missing in his life.
It was the trombone, the instrument he had learned to play in the fifth-grade band.
“Our church had an orchestra, and I said to myself, ‘I'm going to play with that group.’ So, I got my trombone out of the attic and began playing with a children's academy at the church,” he recalled.
The more he practiced, the more it motivated him to improve.
“Six months later, I was playing with the church orchestra, and I thought I would enjoy learning how to play better. I have been playing in local churches ever since. I’ve played trombone at First Baptist in Atlanta and Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, and most Sundays now at Roswell Street Baptist Church.”
While Blevins enjoyed performing locally and in venues across Georgia and Europe, he didn’t stop setting new goals for himself.
“I envisioned returning to college to obtain a music degree because I wanted to play on a professional level. When you get older, you have a choice, get better at what you are doing or wait to die. I enjoy having goals to accomplish, because it gives me a reason for living and opens up new exciting opportunities.”
By 2003, he had achieved another goal, successfully transitioning from development to running his own marketing and distribution business with nutraceuticals products company Reliv International.
Working for himself, he said, “allowed an old guy like me to go back to school and have fun learning something I love. You’ve got to do something with your life, so at age 66, I came back to school,” he explained.
The next step to enroll at Kennesaw State University was a logical progression.
“I have been playing since 1980, but I felt I was just adequate. I wanted to play on a professional level and wanted to compose music. It is such a privilege to play beautiful music,” he said.
“I liked Kennesaw State’s well-respected reputation in the field of music and also because of Tom Gibson, the trombone instructor.”
Gibson, KSU’s trombone artist-in-residence, has performed at the White House, the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. As the host of trombonelessons.com, Gibson maintains one of the most popular trombone-related websites on the Internet with over one million visits each year.
KSU Music Professor and Director of Bands Dave Kehler said watching Blevins perform is an inspiration.
“George is an amazing person! I watch him play and I have to remind myself he is older than most of our faculty,” he said. “I don’t know any students even near his age.”
Blevins has played in the most of the groups in the School of Music, including the jazz ensemble, wind ensemble, concert band and orchestra. He’s even done solos.
“I had never played at auditions or recitals before coming to KSU, but you do what it takes and learn to manage your emotions through the process.”
Blevins credited the nurturing atmosphere at the School of Music for helping him achieve success.
“The professors and staff have been so professional and helpful along my journey. Often, I have had students tutor me in my weak areas and have enjoyed learning from them.”
As for his future plans, he shows no signs of slowing down.
“I want to continue to play in church, possibly form a brass quintet, compose music and join some other groups in town as well as build a reputation for playing professionally,” he said. “Playing music as you grow older is so special. It keeps you alive inside and one can always get better.”
Married to his wife Jeanne for 45 years, Blevins lives in Marietta. The couple has two daughters, and several grandchildren. No one else in the family has picked up the trombone – yet.
—Robert S. Godlewski