- Sponsorship -

Band Teacher of the Year Challenges Students Beyond Typical Level

There was a happy vibe in band teacher Jim Ross’ Pinewood Middle School band room. While playing clarinets, flutes, drums, saxophones, trombones and other instruments, seventh-grade students tapped their feet as Ross directed, his enthusiasm adding to the catchy, cheerful tune, “Happy,” by singer Pharrell Williams. These first-year middle-school students had spent the year learning how to play as a band.

As is often the case for Ross, he was challenging students to perform something difficult at the next day’s school assembly. “The eighth-graders had performed this, so it’s kind of a throw down for the seventh-graders,” he said.

Ross was recently named 2014 District 10 Band Teacher of the Year by the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association. The general membership votes on this honor each spring in each of the state’s 16 districts. He is now a finalist for the MSBOA’s state teacher of the year, to be announced in January.

Ross, a 27-year teacher, began his career in Wyoming Public Schools at both the junior and senior high school levels, where he taught for seven years before taking the reins at Forest Hills’ Central Middle School for six years. He was then asked to apply for the East Kentwood High School position, where he has been for 14 years. He started teaching at Pinewood in 2008 with co-director James Sawyer.

From Middle School OnKentwood band teacher James Ross was recently named 2014 District 10 Band Teacher of the Year by the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association

Ross said he loves teaching middle school because students are just starting to learn how to perform together. “It’s one of my favorite things to do because if they end up to be great players, you have no one to blame but yourself. If they end up with issues you have no one to blame but yourself,” he joked.

Truthfully, he said, it’s making the connections that matter.

“In high school we get to know the kids for four years. If I have them in middle school, I really get to know them for seven years. That’s the positive; overall, enthusiasm and energy– the ‘ah-ha, I’ve got this figured out.’ It’s so rewarding to see younger kids get fired up about that.”

At the high school, Ross teaches marching band, jazz band and pit orchestra.

Ross grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Indiana University with a degree in music education. He received his master’s degree in wind conducting from Michigan State University.

Ross’ family is very musical. His wife, Maureen, is a band director at Grandville Middle School, and their son, Michael, is a senior at Michigan State University majoring in trombone. Their daughter Claire, a 2014 East Kentwood graduate, is majoring in French horn at MSU.

Pinewood Middle School band paraprofessional

Cheryl Meyer said Ross is always challenging his students. The high school band has played alongside the Grand Rapids Symphony. “He sets high expectations that the students rise to meet,” she said. “Last year the high school band played college music because the kids rose to those expectations.”

In the band room, students continued rehearsing, stopping for instructions from Ross.

“Part of doing this is you have to put in your brain, ‘I know these notes. I know these rhythms,'” he said.

Seventh-grade twins Koree Thomas, first chair clarinet player, and Cobee Thomas, second chair flute, said Ross sets them on the right path musically.

“I believe he teaches how to play or notes right. It’s amazing how we sound after we learn to play correctly,” Koree said.

“Sometimes he likes to present us with new pop music we can learn,” Cobee said. “If we have a chance to play it to the audience, they like it.”

CONNECT

Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

LATEST ARTICLES

Good behavior encouraged at home

For students learning from home, positive behavior rewards are still possible...

Discovering bugs by tying flies

Northview’s coordinator of outdoor experiences, a fly-fishing aficionado, used the sport to teach elementary students about macroinvertebrates and making their own flies...

Pen pals build bonds during remote learning

How does a teacher create get-to-know-you opportunities for her new class of third-grade distance learners?

Have books, will deliver

To make sure virtual students still have access to books, this middle school media clerk built her own online platform for the library, created a contactless book pick-up at the school and is delivering books to students at their homes...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Teacher lights science up with creativity

As a child, Wendy Johnson’s curiosity led her to discover her passion for science. Now a ninth-grade biophysics teacher at East Kentwood, her passion transforms the average science class into a hub of student curiosity...

Mentorship program creates district-wide support system

A 20+-year-old program that pairs longtime teachers with those new to the district is proving helpful in a time when everyone feels like a newbie...

Vaccine trial participant: ‘I really want to get back to normal’

Orchestra teacher and cellist Eric Hudson longs for the days when he can direct student musicians in concerts and tours and play in his own ensemble once again. To help speed that process along, he is participating in a COVID-19 vaccine trial...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS