Teacher Spotlight

James Colvin, Surfside Middle School



Have you always been at Surfside?

"No, I’m starting my 5th year at Surfside for the 2019-20 school year. I began teaching at Lynn Haven Elementary as the general music teacher, Choir Director and Show Choir Director. I then left to start a band program for the Liberty County School System based out of Liberty County High School. Later I came back to Bay County to serve as Band and Choir Director at Rosenwald Middle School and restarted a band program at Everitt Middle School. I also served as Director of Bands at Marianna High School and the Band, Dance, Choir and Drama Director at Rutherford High School before coming to Surfside Middle School."


Do you teach anything other than band?

"Although I have taught a variety of ensembles and classes, currently I only teach band classes. Over the past 4 years the band program membership has grown steadily by 5-10% yearly with an 18% growth this year. Having only one band director at the school, we’ve had to suspend some of the other music classes to allow for more band classes to be scheduled.

When I first started at Surfside Middle School, I changed all the general music classes to performance based classes. I’ve always believed that performing music is the best way to learn about music. I started 4 classes in our instrumental music program where 'non-traditional' music students learned to read music through the BEATS with MR. C program, learned the basics of guitar and performed a concert in a hand bell choir.Church Music Ministers should take note, a significant number of these students said they would like to perform in a hand bell choir at their church.

I also started a Jazz Band program that has grown to 2 classes as well."


What accolades has your band program received?

"During the past few years our Band and Music Program in general has been recognized or received awards and honors from multiple organizations. The Florida Music Educators Association (FMEA) recognized our school for having 48% of student population in enrolled in performance based music classes. This was the highest of any middle or high school from Pensacola to Tallahassee. Our school has achieved the FMEA enrollment award percentage requirements every year for the past 4 years.

Our Intermediate and Advanced Bands have consistently received an “A” rating for the past 4 years at the Florida Bandmaster’s Association (FBA) Concert Band Music Performance Assessment while performing music above their required classification. Music Performance Assessments are the equivalent of the state standardized tests given in other subject areas.

Our Jazz Bands have not only received 'A' ratings at FBA Jazz Band Music Performance Assessments, they are the only middle school in our 7 county district to do so and have been the largest/highest rated FBA class MC (Middle School) Jazz Band in the state. Last year the Jazz Band along with our Intermediate and Advanced Concert Bands competed against 17 elementary, middle and high school Bands and Choirs in Tampa, FL. Our groups received 1st place in each division and Grand Champion Honors for receiving the highest individual scores.

Our students have excelled individually as well. For the past 4 years 95% of our students have received an 'A' rating at the FBA Solo & Ensemble Music Performance Assessment. 70% of the students performed music at least one year above their grade level with many performing high school level literature and one student performing college level literature and earning 'A' ratings.

During our most recent All-County Band 20% of the ensemble was comprised of Surfside Middle School Students with 10 schools participating. Surfside students earned 29% of the 1st Chair positions and 25% of the 2nd Chair positions.

Recently, one of our military students earned 1st Chair Honors at the Southeastern United States Middle School Honor Bands in Troy, AL He competed along with 400 other students from grades 7-9 to earn the highest score and the position of 1st Chair Clarinet or Concert Master in the top band."


I heard that your band's music was featured in a movie...what movie and how did that happen?

"My last year at Rutherford High School I applied to perform in a new program that Universal Studious was putting together with my wife’s college band director, Mr. Robert W. Smith. Mr. Smith was writing a soundtrack for the original Frankenstein movie written and directed by James Dawley and owned by Universal Studious. It was originally a silent movie with a cue sheet for live musical accompaniment. After being accepted, we were sent the music and rehearsed for a few months. We traveled to Universal Studious Orlando and worked with a graduate of the Julliard School. We recorded the soundtrack to a portion of the movie along with some Foley effects and voice overs in one of the backlot soundstages. After all the post production work was completed by Universal’s Sound Technicians and Audio Engineers, we were sent a copy of the movie. The program was approved and is now a unique sound design workshop where multiple types of student ensemble can learn what it’s like to be a working studio musician and how movie soundtracks are produced.

A few years ago I took the Surfside Middle School Band and recorded a short excerpt from Despicable Me and recently recorded The Lorax with both the Band and Choir. The students really enjoyed the process and everyone has a digital copy of the movie that they can share with family, friends and one day with their own children."


What is your proudest moment as an educator?

"I take great joy in seeing my students succeed and achieve at high levels. I had 4 Clarinetist at Rutherford selected for the auditioned FBA All-State Band. It is an extremely competitive blind audition across the state where only the highest scoring students are selected. We typically only have one student selected each year among all of our middle and high schools in our 7 county area. One even made 2nd chair. As mentioned earlier, Cameron Young, one of my Surfside students and military child earned 1st Chair Honors at the Southeastern United States Middle Schools Honor Band. An incredibly determined and talented young lady I taught at Rutherford High School, Marissa Stanfill, just accepted the position of Clarinet Instructor at Troy University. Although my bands have received many awards and trophies over the years, my proudest moments as an educator are seeing my students succeed. Those are the real trophies!"


If there is anything else you think I should know, include that as well.

"Our military families make many sacrifices to support our armed forces members. Moving every few years is especially challenging on spouses and children. With the right help, military children can overcome these challenges and become some of the top members of our society.

I’m especially grateful to two military children and the teachers that helped them along their journey. Mr. Ray and James Smith moved around the country growing up with their military parents. They passed through Bay County attending Rutherford High School and eventually made their way back to teach band at Mowat Middle School, Rutherford High School, Mosley High School and Gulf Coast Community College. In the 1980’s they began teaching at Troy State University in Troy, AL where I would later have them as my music professors. These were two of the finest gentlemen and most knowledgeable band directors I’ve ever met. They helped instill in me a pursuit of excellence, humanity and a lifelong love of music.

One of my first students, Matt Kaminskas, was a military child as well that settled in Bay County. I have really enjoyed working with him and his family. Today, he is an accomplished band director having served as the Assistant Band Director at Dr. Philips Fine and Performing Arts Magnet School in Orlando, FL and as Band Director of Mosley High School. He consistently received the highest ratings possible with both programs as they grew in membership. I know he’s looking forward to next school year where he will start a new band program on Tyndall Air Force Base at Tyndall Academy, a K-8 school that serves primarily military families. I know he will be that person that makes a difference in the military student’s life and helps them overcome their unique challenges and allow for future successes.

I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Christa Colvin for 22 years with one child in high school.

Orchestra Director/ Ministry Assistant at St. Andrew Baptist Church for 21 years.

Charter Member/ Former Manager/Former Conductor/Current Bass Trombonist for 21 years with the Panama City Pops Orchestra.

Board Member of the Panama City Music Association for 8 years.

Florida Bandmaster’s Association District 2 Secretary for 6 years.

I regularly travel each summer to study at different Universities and Music Schools including the Julliard School in New York 4 years ago.

I have 8 former students that are Band Directors.

I had the unique privilege to teach the children of 2 of my former band directors."

1311 Balboa Avenue
Panama City, FL 32401
(850) 767-4100
Mark McQueen
Superintendent, Bay District Schools
Office of the Superintendent
Holly Buchanan
Employment and Income Verification Equity Coordinator
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