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  • Miss Farrah

Band Director, Music Teacher, Owner/Developer of A Special Need for Music Program, Jim Howell



In this blog I am spotlighting a very talented man by the name of Jim Howell who is an amazing musician, teacher, public speaker, and most importantly a person who shares his passion of music with others. I had the privilege to meet Jim when our paths crossed in the marching band world. I was fortunate to work alongside Jim for 12 years as part of his band staff. I have also seen first hand what a difference he is making with his band programs and in the special needs community. Please take a few minutes to read all about Jim and how he is making a huge impact in his field.


1.) Tell me a little bit about yourself professionally and personally (like what you enjoy doing when you’re not working)?

 

Being a music teacher and band director, I spend a lot of time around music. Whether I’m listening for school or for fun, there is always music. When I’m not involved in teaching, I have been working on a book and instructional videos for an online teaching program. Outside of all things related to music and education, I am a child of the 80s, and I love Star Wars, GI Joe, and classic video games like Atari, Colecovision, and arcade machines.

 

2.) Where do you work and/ or your company name?

 

This year, I started a new job at Osnaburg Local Schools in East Canton, Ohio. I also work with some great drummers at Advocates for Success, a vocational program for adults with disabilities in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

 

3.) What is your role?

 

I am a band director and music teacher. I also get the privilege of teaching the Hornet Marching Band.

 

4.) How long have you been in this role?

 

This is my 25th year teaching music and band. I started as a long-term sub at Dover, spent three years at Chagrin Falls, then 21 years at Claymont. Although I had to say goodbye to some great people at Claymont, I’m so happy to meet my new educational community at East Canton this year. I have been working with the drummers at Advocates for Success since 2019.

5.) What’s a typical day or week for you at your job?

 

A typical day starts with a seventh & eighth-grade band class, followed by a high school jazz band class. Then I have to switch gears and teach kindergarten general music. After lunch, I have a sixth-grade band, then either fourth or fifth-grade general music, and the school day ends with high school band class. During marching season, we have after-school marching band practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

 

When I am working at Advocates for Success, I leave right after school on Wednesdays for our drumming class. At Advocates for Success, we have an eight-week program that starts with a once-a-week class and ends with an evening concert. We typically have a fall session and a spring session. Last year, we also had a special session outside of our regular program where we traveled to an arts festival in Wooster, Ohio, and performed for the first time away from home.  

 

6.) What are some of the challenges of your role?

 

At East Canton, one of the unique parts of my job is teaching all grade levels. I go back and forth between teaching general music and band. I have high schoolers then kindergarteners. Luckily all of my classes are in the same room, so I don’t have to travel throughout the day. Having to work with different age groups is super cool!

 

At Advocates for Success, my biggest challenge is getting a lot done in a short amount of time. I always feel like we could use a couple more days to prepare for our shows, but I think the deadline is what pushes us to make our performances great.


7.) What are the rewards?

 

There have been so many great moments this year, but when you say rewards I instantly think of three examples.

 

First, in a marching band, when you go on the field with a new group of kids with all new material in a fresh new style, they can have a lot of anxiety. But after that first tune ends and the audience is cheering so loud the students can’t hear instructions, that is an experience you never forget. People were so happy there were tears in the eyes of both the parents and the performers.

 

Second, I had a kindergartener who was misbehaving during our music class. I was dealing with the problem as quickly as I could, trying to minimize the distraction of the other students. Right in the middle of when I was dealing with my troublemaker, one of the other little girls got up, walked to the front of the room, gave me a hug, then went back to her seat. She never said a word. That was a moment I will never forget.

 

Third, At Advocates for Success, one experience this year I will never forget was after our fall performance. I had the parents of one of the members of my drum group come up to me after the show and tell me how great it was that I spent time with their kid and how thankful they were to have met me. The mother was crying because she was so pleased to see her child perform in a group with other musicians. She told me she was so happy I could be part of her life. She was so honest and full of emotion it really moved me. Those moments really make teaching a rewarding career.

8.) What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a role like yours?

For someone who is considering a career as a music teacher, I would recommend seeing as many different programs as you can and always having an open mind. There isn’t just one way music should be taught. There are as many different ways to teach music and band as there are teachers, and everyone has something to offer that can help kids. Don’t simply dismiss a concept that seems silly or goes against what you feel is the right way music teaching should look. Oftentimes, the teachers who seem a little outside the box have reasons, and we can learn so much from people that are different from us.

9.) Do you have any words of wisdom for the readers?


My whole philosophy is that anyone can incorporate music in learning. You don’t need to be a music teacher to share music with students with special needs. After I teach my sessions at Advocates for Success, they have weekly classes without me that are quite successful. I think we all know someone that could benefit from a musical experience but for whatever reason is unable to do so. I hope that my program can help everyone fill the special need for music in their lives.

 

10.) Please highlight some of the events/projects/merchandise you offer.

 

Right now, my book A Special Need for Music is available on Amazon. My YouTube channel is @LearnWithDrums and you can see samples of some of my presentations and interviews about the program. More material will be added soon. Links to all of my social media can be found on my website SpecialNeedforMusic.com.

 

This past year presented A Special Need for Music at Milestones National Autism Conference, the Texas Autism Conference, and OCALICONLINE, Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. I will be presenting my teaching method on Saturday at the Ohio Music Education Association District 8 Mini-Conference, and also at the University of Akron on Friday, February 10th for a collegiate version of the Ohio Music Education Association. I have also applied to present at other events for special educators and will share those as they are announed. There are links to all of my social media on my website SpecialNeedforMusic.com so you can stay in touch. When my new membership website goes live, we will have special discounts for the first subscribers.


11.) What is next for you?


Coming soon I will have a website that will have lesson videos for students and teachers to learn my system of teaching music using real songs. It will be a membership site with a basic fee and access to a whole package of lessons for an entire school year. Think of it as me teaching you material for a concert, and you can practice with me whenever you like. More lesson packages will be added if members want to continue their subscriptions. Users will be able to choose the lessons they want. There will be other cool things, too. This website will be perfect for students who don’t have access to a music teacher. Maybe they are homeschooled, they might have special needs, or maybe they just want a fun way to learn more about music at home. There will be options for teachers, schools, and organizations to purchase packages for multiple users, too.


12.) How can people reach you with questions or find out more about all the great programs you offer?


My email is specialneedformusic@gmail.com and I can always be reached through my website SpecialNeedforMusic.com


13.) Please feel free to share anything else you would like to share with readers


I was so honored to receive a “Better Together” award from the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities last school year. Thank you Miss Farrah for nominating me! 

 

A link to Jim’s book A Special Need for Music is below:


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