That is why he’s been able to cobble together a multi-faceted program, including a mambo and jazz-ensemble band, the Preservationists, literally from scratch.
A saxophone player since fourth grade, Balmat noted he was inspired by now-retired MBHS band director Rey Vinole.
“I told myself, ‘One day, that is what I want to do, I want to come back to Mission Bay and keep this program going.’”
Characterizing himself as “a dorky kid,” Balmat confided to being “in the band room every day at lunch practicing.”
Admitting being “as local as it gets,” Balmat was born and raised in PB, having attended Kate Sessions, Pacific Beach Middle and Mission Bay High schools. “This is my home. I have deep roots in the community,” said Balmat.
A 2002 MBHS grad, Balmat was in the school’s music program back then. These days, he’s returned to oversee and reshape its bands, orchestra and music department.
“Vinole started it in the 1980s and I was in that dixieland jazz band,” he said. “I pretty much reinstated that program, which had ended for two years, when I came back in 2006.”
One of the nation's premier traditional youth jazz bands, the Preservationists continue to be featured at venues throughout San Diego County and California including: Anthology, House of Blues, Dizzy's, Petco Park, SeaWorld, Tango Del Rey, Lux Art Institute, Ocean Beach Music and Art Festival and the Sacramento Jazz Festival.
Gypsy jazz and mambo quartets have since joined the ensemble mix led by Balmat alongside the cornerstone Preservationists.
“To be successful, you have to think outside the box,” said Balmat of his educational philosophy. He discussed what he’d like to see happen with music and the arts in the future at MBHS.
“My big goal is to make MBHS a music magnet. I want to see students from all over come to Mission Bay for the music,” Balmat said, adding what’s really needed is an improved school performance venue.
“Our outdated theater has been around since the ’50s,” he said, noting, “We have funding for football stadiums and improved science classrooms, but we do not have funds to improve our space for our arts programs. I want a performance hall our students can be proud of, a space where they can really exhibit their talent.”
Until then, JP Balmat, MBHS music instructor and band leader extraordinaire, along with his students, will continue to build bridges performing their music, both inside and outside Mission Bay.