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50 Years of Alumni: Jim Henderson

College(s)/University attended:
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL

What years were you in GTCYS?
1981-1989, when I graduated.

What skills or lessons did you learn in GTCYS that you still use today?
Apart from reinforcing a love for music, I learned a lot about teamwork and leadership – and how to raise expectations for what people can achieve when pushed (and a little bit about how to push them). Mr. Berg in particular taught me a lot about that – he got students both in GTCYS and in the Robbinsdale area schools (where I was fortunate enough to have him as my orchestra teacher through Jr. High and my Sophomore year of high school). The experiences helped shape who I am today.

Why do you think GTCYS is important for students now?
GTCYS provides an option for students who want to participate in group student activities, but who (like me) do not have an aptitude for sports. It encourages and teaches team building, leadership, and working together to achieve goals through music. I have worked in technology since leaving college, and I have observed that a large number of technically inclined individuals who work in this field have a musical background. With the decline of music education in public schools, GTCYS (and organizations like it) provide students with an avenue to participate in and explore musical genres that aren’t often part of kids’ lives these days.

How does music still play a part in your life?
I routinely have music running in the background while I’m working, and I have been a subscriber to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for the past several years. I have a few scores that I’ve collected over the years, and every once in a while, I’ll listen to a piece that I have and will follow along with the score, often discovering things about the piece that I didn’t notice before. In addition, having been a performer (though I don’t play any more), I know how to be “on” in front of people. I spent a couple of years teaching technical classes and found that I could use my experience performing music (whether solo or with a group) to be more extroverted than is natural for me – whether in a classroom with 15 adult students or doing a presentation in front of hundreds of people.

What is your favorite composer or piece of music?
It really depends on my mood and the day. Sometimes, I’ll listen to a single composer for a couple of days, and other times, I’ll jump around. Picking a favorite is not an easy task. I could easily come up with 20 composers/artists and still feel that I’ve left someone out. My tastes range from Bach, Mozart, and Holst to Patrick O’Hearn, John Williams, and Epica. There are even days where The Eagles, Queen, and Joe Satriani are on my playlist.

What’s a fun fact about yourself?
When I was younger, I was pretty rigid in my musical tastes. I did tend towards the more baroque-to-romantic periods of music, with the only exceptions really being modern movie music. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate other genres of music as well, particularly where I can see performers demonstrating real technical skill. It’s always fun to listen to or watch someone who is really good at what they do, even if the music itself is something that doesn’t appeal to me. Looking at things in that way (not just music, either) has opened a lot of doors and given me a more varied experiences than I would have had otherwise.

What do you hope to see from GTCYS in the next 50 years?
I hope to see GTCYS continue to champion music education and provide students with experiences to perform around the world. I was fortunate enough to be in the 2nd Violin section for the U.S.S.R. Tour in 1988, and that experience is something I remember every day. It was truly a life-changing experience, getting to experience a different culture and to see a part of the world that, when I was a kid, was often talked about as “the enemy” or (at the very least) “our adversary”. Meeting people who attended our performances taught me the valuable lesson that people around the world are generally not that different, in that we’re all trying to do our best to get through the day and be better tomorrow than we were yesterday. It was a very eye-opening experience for me and is something that all students should have the opportunity to experience first-hand.

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