When Bob Storms emailed me to let me know about the publication of the new edition of his book, “School Stories: The Funny Thing About Music,” I was eager to read it. He describes it as “a charming, folksy accounting of life in a middle school band room with a few field trips, and parades thrown in for good measure.”
Bob, who’s received numerous accolades as a teacher, a professional musician and composer, has penned stories of classroom pranks, unusual situations, problems, decisions and solutions that shaped the outcome of a teacher’s not-so-typical school days in public school music departments: vignettes about students who’ve gone on to illustrious careers, on-the-road band trips, and touching memories of reaching students with differing abilities.
What shines through is Bob’s obvious love of teaching and of his students over his decades-long career. He came to Ferndale in 1962, after teaching in Cle Elum for two years.
He’s now 81.
Bob will share his book from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Cozy Corner Books, 5772 Second Ave., in Ferndale; and 4 p.m. Nov. 10 at Village Books, 1200 11th St.
Bob currently plays in five bands: Swing Connection (big band), Bellingham Dixieland All Stars, Bob Storms Variety, and Stormy Sea & the Gales (family band), and he substitutes in Canadian bands Maple Leaf Jazz Band, Red Beans & Rice, and Swing City. In the past, he played with Bathtub Gin Party Band, Clearbrook Dixie Band, and three traveling bands: Blue Street Jazz Band, 10th Avenue Band, and AlpenBand California. He’s toured around the globe, he says, from age 62 to 67, playing Dixieland jazz in festivals from Australia to Russia.
Bob’s a reed player, and covers alto sax, clarinet, flute, tenor sax and vocals. He’s led bands since 1978, when he formed “Variety” to pay class reunions and weddings. Dixieland bands came later, in 1983 he led Bathtub Gin Party Band, which lasted for 19 years playing jazz festivals.
While playing in the junior high school band, he developed a focus on being a band director in the public schools.
“Opportunities fell in front of me along the way through high school and college – student band director, student choir director and finally, as Baptist Church Choir director as a junior college student.”
He has some thoughts about music programs being cut in the public schools.
“Ask any music teacher today and they will tell you the ‘new’ answer to that question,” he says.
“Science has proven that music performance is the highest form of mental activity, and as such, develops better student learning.”
“Besides, it’s fun. Musicians were always the cherished students to have in school, according to the classroom teachers for several reasons: they know how to cooperate in a group, they are generally better students. and parents are usually cooperative ones.”
He still attends concerts of classical, jazz, and choral music, and says if there is a Latin band playing, he’ll show up for that too.
“I listen to the music in my head. I know it sounds like a crazy statement, but I have music going virtually all of my waking hours. I recognize music that I have not written and I catch a melody on a small recorder I often carry.”
A special note: he has an annual concert of his music compositions called “Jazz Celebration.”
“The entire concert series is made up of new music,” he says, “90 percent of which are my compositions (songs and tunes). I have a hobby of writing music, and to date I have 1,400 copyrighted songs. I use them each year to make up concerts for my Jazz Celebration series.”
“My music includes a variety of styles of dance and folk music. There are waltzes, polkas, fox trots, swing, Dixieland, ragtime, modern jazz, big band, combo, Latin American styles, (rumba, samba, mambo, tango, bossa nova, cha cha) ballads, novelties, country western, light rock, funk, showtime, and more.”
“I have used my Jazz Celebration concert series to help others: $4,000 for a homeless facility, $1,200 for a jazz camp students for four local jazz camps, and last year, $1,500 to assist a Mexican town, Coatzingo, Mexico.”
Next year’s concert will be on March 8, 2020, on International Women’s Day at 3 p.m. at Lairmont Manor, 405 Fieldston Road. Not a fundraiser this time, he says.
For more on Bob, visit www.stormsmusicservices.com.