At 13, Clayton Thomas has found inspiration right at home.
"I really just look up to him a lot," Clayton said about his 24-year-old brother, Eric, who works as an inner-city teacher in Atlanta.
Clayton was inspired by his brother to play the tenor saxophone in the school band - Eric also played the tenor saxophone when he was in the school band. As an eighth-grader at Columbia Middle School, Clayton isn't participating in the marching band this year because he's on the school's football team. But come concert season, Clayton gives his all, belting out notes to make beautiful music.
"I like most when we do concert festival," said Clayton, who also enjoys reading. "We play a lot of different things."
"He's always been so professional in everything he does," said Katie Bennett, band director at Columbia Middle School. "He almost seems like an adult."
Even Clayton's mother said that her son is a serious person.
"He's more the thinker of the family," said Cynthia Thomas. She and her husband, James, have four children. "He's very obedient. He's always been a good student, for the most part."
Clayton Thomas plays football and saxophone at Columbia Middle School.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Clayton wants to one day be a sportscaster or have a career as a jazz musician.
"I pretty much like music because I play both the piano and tenor sax and can play a little guitar," he said. "And I just like all sports. If you can't do all of them, you might as well just talk about them."
When he isn't playing football or learning new tunes on the saxophone, Clayton likes to make up songs. Though he hasn't written them down, he says he has them "in my head."
"He has a natural talent for music," said Bennett, who has taught Clayton since the sixth grade. "He came in and did some demonstrations for my sixth-graders when they were trying to decide what instruments they wanted to play. Based on his performance, a lot of them chose to try out for tenor sax."
The youngest of the Thomas' four children, Clayton is on the First Family Church step team.
"We consider it like the Army," said the A-honor-roll pupil. "We take it seriously when we perform because we're performing for God."
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