Jim Barnes, retired music director from the Germantown School District, said he must have taught between 3,000 and 5,000 students in his decades of teaching music. All his students were different, he said.
Some became professional musicians. For others, music became a hobby. And some joined band because their parents made them.
“I would find a way to make a connection with every student,” said Barnes, who was the Germantown School District music director from 1987 to 2016. “You have to make a connection with every student and attitude.”
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He said that everyone is affected by music. It surrounds us in our everyday lives, whether riding in an elevator, going to social events or even just watching TV. Barnes wants people to “understand, appreciate and love music.”
With this legacy and the work he continues developing the community music program, Barnes was recently named Citizen of the Year by the Germantown Chamber of Commerce.
“Music is something I can do and can make a difference in the lives of others,” he said.
Expanding the school and local music programs
Barnes worked hard to expand both the school and community programs.
He started the Germantown Community Band in 1999, which has expanded to include a Dixieland band, jazz combo, jazz ensemble, German band and adult wind ensemble. During the pandemic, Barnes formed a new ensemble/sextet called Off the Record, which frequently performs jazz, blues and pop music throughout the area.
As the school’s band director, he and his students traveled internationally: to England twice, Scotland and Spain.
Barnes also started several initiatives at Germantown High School, including The Wall of Sound, The Almost Anything Goes Show, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Feast & Follies, Warhawk Band Boosters, Marching Band Madness, music theory and computer composition class and was musical director for the first five high school musicals.
Barnes was also an international judge for the London New Year’s Day Parade and served on the state marching band committee.
With Barnes’ involvement through the Kiwanis Club, he was one of the top fundraisers for a new Gehl’s Performing Arts Pavilion at Firemen’s Park in Germantown, which was completed in 2018, said John Krause, a Kiwanis member who nominated Barnes for the award.
He also raised more than $32,000 in sponsorships and donations to support the community band and instructed more than 1,750 instrumentalists in the community band.
“(The community band program) is something to bring it together. He raised a lot of funds for the pavilion. The pavilion is the crown jewel of (Firemen’s Park),” said Krause.
‘My best memories are from experiences in the band’
Laura Herschleb, a 1997 Germantown High School, graduate fondly remembers band from her high school days.
“I felt like band was this creative outlet that helped me navigate school and make unique experiences,” she said.
As a trumpet player, she made the wind symphony as a freshman and was able to gain leadership skills by being a drum major to lead the marching band.
“Many of my best memories are from experiences in the band,” she said. “(Barnes) brought people together with a common goal. He cared to support people.”
She also had unique experiences such as playing at Camp Randall. “He made all of these things happen. He was so much more than a band director,” Herschleb said.
“No matter what, I could be myself in the band room,” she said.
Barnes, himself, had a similar experience as a French horn player in high school.
“Being in band in high school was my place, my hangout, my outlet,” he said. “Everyone was involved in music, and I found my niche and comfort zone.”
Since high school, he has taken up many instruments, including jazz piano and ukulele. He performs, coordinates and inspires music in others.
“(Music) was all I wanted to do,” he said.
Cathy Kozlowicz can be reached at 262-361-9132 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @kozlowicz_cathy†