Bandmaster Bill Himes brings the magic of music to kids one note at a time.
As a kid growing up in The Salvation Army, music has always been a part of Bill Himes‘ life. By the time he was in junior high, Bill’s musical talent had reached beyond the page and he began experimenting with composition.
Bill says, “By the time I was 13 or 14, I was writing little band pieces and marches and things like that. Fortunately, I was also in a corps where our bandmaster was a music educator; he was a very good teacher but he also understood composition, having done some arranging himself. Basically what he wanted to do was expand my thinking; he was very encouraging in that regard.”
William Himes (b. 1949) earned his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Michigan. For five years he taught instrumental music in the public schools of Flint, Michigan, where he was also adjunct lecturer in low brass at the University of Michigan-Flint.
In university Bill majored in Music Education, setting up a career as a music teacher where, after graduation, he could share his passion with kids.
“I taught junior high for three years in inner city Flint, Michigan. Then I taught in a small school district just outside the city limits teaching grade five through twelve. I had the whole high school program which included marching band and concert band.”
In order to engage his students, Bill would introduce contemporary or pop music alongside of classic composers.
“This would have been in the early 1970s. The music would be like Carole King and the music from Jesus Christ Superstar. I’d always put up the order of what we were going to rehearse that hour, but I always put [contemporary music] as the carrot at the end. We have to get through this Mozart piece and then you can do this Carole King tune. That was my way of sort of sneaking up on them, but they learned the value of classical music as well. Any music done well is good music; it doesn’t matter what style it’s the integrity you bring to it.”
After a successful teaching career, The Salvation Army came knocking and Bill began his career as a Bandmaster. He now serves as Head of the Music and Gospel Arts Department for The Salvation Army USA Central Territory. In his travels, Bill makes a point of working with youth bands and popping into youth Music and Gospel Arts Camps during the summer.
“When I talk to volunteers at Salvation Army music camp, I tell them “you think you’re just teaching this class, but you’re making a major impact on kids that they may never forget for the rest of their lives.” I tell them about the bonds I had with teachers from time I was 7 years old at this music camp and what they mean to me.”
For Bill, music has presented itself as more than just a creative conduit; it is a visceral experience.
“Music unlocks a door. That’s the whole premise of music therapy. The part of the brain that perceives music is so insulated that it’s often the last to be damaged, so it’s a channel of connecting information. We hear that melody of Amazing Grace, and it’s more than a melody; we’re reminded of the truth of the music. For me, music is my hook. If I can use music as a means to connect with people then I’ll use that. We gain from each other in this experience.