Dordt College News

Norm Gaines Retires as Jazz Band Director

May 30, 2007

GainesBy Steve Hoogland Staff Writer
Reprinted w/permission from Sioux Center News

After directing the Dordt College jazz band for the past eight years, Norm Gaines will be giving up his post at the end of the 2006-07 school year. For Gaines, the superintendent of the Sioux Center school district from 1995-96 through the 1999-2000 school year, the chance to direct the jazz was an opportunity to be involved in jazz music.

"While I was still superintendent, I had had some conversations with (Dordt concert band director) Henry Duitman. Dordt had a jazz band some years in the past that had been discontinued. He talked to me and asked if I'd be interested in taking a look at it."

At Duitman's urging, Gaines got together with a group of interested students late in one school year with just a couple weeks to go. "There was still some music from previous jazz bands and we got that out and they just played some tunes, and it was fun," said Gaines. "The students were interested."

So Duitman urged Gaines to begin a jazz band starting the next fall "on a one-semester trial." "We tried it for one semester and then we went on and tried it another semester," said Gaines. "It went on from there." Each Wednesday night the jazz band would meet and rehearse.

"The students worked hard and I appreciated their efforts," said Gaines. "We've also taken the group on tour with the concert band and chamber orchestra. We've also given some pops concerts. It's been fun working with the students and some have really become interested in jazz music so I've worked with them on an individual basis." Normally, about 18 members have been a part of the jazz band at Dordt. It usually included five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones, four rhythm members and often a vocalist.

Before becoming involved in school administration Gaines was very much involved in music as a music teacher and a performer. While earning his degree at Ohio State University, he played with area jazz and dance bands in the Columbus, Ohio, area. After earning his music degree, he took a job as a high school band director in northern Ohio and continued to perform. He was drafted into the army in the late 1950s and played in the army jazz band during his term, and eventually went back to high school teaching at another high school and again picked up playing in the weekend circuit.

"When I went back to that area, most of the guys that I played with during my college career were still around and I started playing with those groups again," said Gaines. "I'd be playing probably five or six nights a week."
Gaines said that the position that he filled was actually sort of what was called a contract musician. "As shows or bands came into the area and needed a sax player or flute player or whatever the combination they needed, there was a pool of players that I was involved with and you'd get selected to play," said Gaines.

Later after going back to school, he began to work in school administration, first as a principal in Ohio, and then accepting a position as school superintendent in Auburn, New York, which is near Syracuse. "In the fall of 1973, the assistant superintendent who I was responsible to in the Columbus area took a job in upstate New York and asked me to go along as his assistant, so I did," recalled Gaines. He later was superintendent in Oklahoma and Wyoming before moving on to Sioux Center. "In all of the places I've been, I've had opportunities to play, many times in churches and those kinds of things," said Gaines. "When I came here I also was involved in church music and other events."

He also became involved in the Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra in Sioux Center and has been manager of the NISO, a role he will continue. "It's kind of ironic that I started out as a music educator and was very involved in music at the start of my education career," said Gaines. "Then I became involved in school administration, got away from it and came here, where I became involved again."

Gaines said that he's appreciated working with Duitman and other instructors at Dordt. He's also thankful that Dordt has given him the opportunity to direct the jazz band. "I appreciate the opportunity to do something that I've really loved to do," said Gaines.

Gaines also has taught a few classes at Dordt teaching students who eventually want to be music teachers. "It's been a great opportunity," he said. "They keep you on your toes and challenge you. And that's great. You cannot fool students. They know when you're sincere."

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