Our Staff

Director of Athletic Bands

Tonya Mitchell

Tonya Mitchell is the interim Director of Athletic Bands and Assistant Professor of Music at Valdosta State University. She directs and oversees the Blazin’ Brigade marching band, the basketball pep band, and the concert band. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music education with a minor in wind conducting from Indiana University where she had the honor of performing as a drum major with the Marching Hundred. Ms. Mitchell holds a master’s degree in music education from the University of Georgia, and is currently pursuing her doctorate of musical arts in wind conducting at the University of Kansas with Dr. Paul W. Popiel.

As a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Kansas, Ms. Mitchell conducted the wind ensemble, symphonic band, university band, percussion group, and the Helianthus new music ensemble. She also assisted with the Marching Jayhawks and directed the women’s basketball band. She was the organizer of, and guest conductor in, the Prairie Winds Honor Band Festival hosted at KU. From 2011 to 2015, Ms. Mitchell taught at Chamblee Charter High School, and was a frequent adjudicator and clinician in the Atlanta area. A clarinetist, she played in the Cobb Wind Symphony, Georgia’s premiere adult wind ensemble. In 2014, Ms. Mitchell performed as a guest clarinetist and conductor with the Dekalb Youth Symphony on their tour of the Baltics through Latvia, Estonia, and Finland.

Ms. Mitchell was recently selected to present at the International Society for the Investigation and Promotion of Wind Band at the 2016 conference in Oberwölz, Austria on her research of Joan Tower’s Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman.


Graduate Assistants

Dylan Peters

Garrison German

Coordinator of Color Guard


Coordinator of Blazette Dance Line


Coordinator of Marching Percussion

AaronRyan M. Smith is currently Assistant Professor of Percussion at Valdosta State University. Prior to his appointment at VSU, he served on faculty at Georgia College, Toccoa Falls College, and the Georgia Governor's Honors Program. His primary teachers have included Thomas McCutchen and marimba artist She-e Wu, and he has performed in master classes with Leigh Howard Stevens, Michael Burritt, She-e Wu, Frederic Macarez, James Ross, percussion group NEXUS, and Alan Abel. Additionally, he has performed with Thomas McCutchen, She-e Wu, Gordon Stout, Chris Deviney, Blake Tyson, and Kevin Bobo. Dr. Smith is the Principal Timpanist with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, Principal Percussionist for the Albany (GA) Symphony Orchestra, Acting Principal Percussion for the Macon Symphony Orchestra, and performs with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, Carroll Symphony, Ludwig Symphony, and Gwinnett Ballet Theatre. An advocate of new music, he has commissioned works for solo percussion and percussion ensemble and performed concerts of the music of Joan Tower, Charles Wuorinen, Lewis Spratlan, and John Cage, Lou Harrison, and Charles Ives with the Riverside Choral Society at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in NYC. Dr. Smith is a founding member of the Arasmas Percussion Group, a percussion chamber ensemble with a repertoire spanning from the 1930s to the present and has premiered several new works. He was selected as a finalist in the 2005 Percussion Arts Society's Solo Multi-Percussion with Electronic Accompaniment Competition. Dr. Smith performs regularly with saxophonist Stephen Fischer at NASA (North American Saxophone Alliance) regional and national conferences. He is an active member of the Percussive Arts Society, the National Association of Collegiate Wind and Percussion Instructors, and Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society. Dr. Smith holds degrees in Percussion Performance from the University of Georgia and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.