© Herald photo by Matt Gardner
Kinistino School band director Jim Banman, aka the “band man,” is retiring after 30 years of teaching music.
For three decades, Jim Banman served as band director at Kinistino School, teaching successive generations of students how to express themselves through music.
Many of his pupils, however, knew their teacher by a different moniker.
“It’s kind of funny,” he recalled. “When I was in my early days of teaching, I would say my name, but the kids would get mixed up and they would think since they were coming to band that my title was Mr. Band Man -- kind of like you’d say Mr. President or Mr. Prime Minister or whatever.
“So they called me Mr. Band Man, and then the parents would come in for the first interview and they’d go, ‘Oh, Mr. Band Man, and what actually is your name?’ because they thought it was a title.”
“Now they know me,” he added. “But that’s what they used to do.”
As he prepares for retirement after 30 years of teaching, parents, students and fellow educators have indeed come to know the “Band Man” much better.
Underscoring Banman’s popularity and dedication to his job, Band Parents Association chairperson Karen Breiter referred to the Kinistino band director as “one in a million” and “one of the kindest and humblest teachers I’ve ever met.”
“He cares about the students,” Breiter said. “He spends hours and hours of time just arranging music and helping kids and accompanying kids who play at music festivals.”
“We’re really going to miss him,” she added.
The roots of Banman’s musical career began in childhood, when he first started tinkering around on the keyboard.
At nine years old, Banman received a piano from his mother, who also enrolled him in lessons -- an obligation he recalled fighting “tooth and nail.”
“I wanted to play, but I didn’t want the lessons,” he said. “But now I’m grateful as anything.”
Attending high school in Kimberley, B.C., Banman’s growing musical skills flourished in the school’s band program.
It was in Grade 10 that he realized he wanted to become a music teacher.
“I enjoyed it so much and I thought, ‘This is a great thing. I want to do this,’” he recalled.
Aside from an internship, Banman would go on to teach at Kinistino School for his entire career -- teaching for eight years before departing to San Francisco to obtain his master’s degree in music, then returning to the school and continuing to teach there for the next 22 years.
“Kinistino’s a good place to be,” he said. “They’ve got really good parent support, good kids, really good administration support -- plus you get the opportunity to teach high school kids and play at a high level, but you get to take them all the way through, which is kind of fun. So it’s probably the best school to teach at for that.”
In his role as band director, Banman oversaw the beginner’s band program for Grade 6 students, the junior band for Grade 7, 8 and 9 students and the senior band for Grade 10, 11 and 12 students.
The junior and senior bands frequently travel across North America to perform at festivals -- trips that can carry a hefty price tag.
When I was in my early days of teaching, I would say my name, but the kids would get mixed up and they would think since they were coming to band that my title was Mr. Band Man. Jim Banman
Before the Band Parent Association began handling fundraising since the early 2000s, Banman formerly took that responsibility on his own shoulders.
Much of the band director’s energy stemmed from his love of the job.
“More often than not it was quite rewarding,” Banman said. “I had lots of fun, enjoyed my days, enjoyed the time with the kids and the travelling and concerts and festivals.”
Yet all good things must come to an end, and Banman has finally decided that the time is right to draw his career at Kinistino to a close.
“The people out there are great, the school’s great, the kids are great. I’ve enjoyed myself out there,” he said. “But you do something for a certain amount of years and yeah, it’s time to move on.”
With his coming retirement, Banman hopes to expand his involvement in church music, which for decades paralleled his work as a school band director.
Previously the director of music at Scarborough Baptist Church in Prince Albert, Banman is currently serving as music director at Lake Park Baptist Church.
“I’ve always done music in the church my whole career,” he said. “But I want to be able to devote more time to that.”
Having recently moved to Birch Hills with his wife, Banman will also have plenty of time for renovations on his new house.
Prior to his interview with the Daily Herald on Friday, Banman received an unexpected gift at a school assembly during his second-last day on the job.
“It was kind of an engraved clock and nice card,” he said. “They … gave a little speech and it was nice. They called all of the kids from the whole school in.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” he added. “I showed up and (thought), ‘Why are the kids in (here)? I didn’t get an email about this. What’s going on here?’ So that was sweet.”
Illustrating the impact of Banman’s efforts over the years, Breiter noted the sense of gratitude among teachers, students and parents at Kinistino.
“We’re a small school,” she said. “From kindergarten to Grade 12 we have less than 300 students, and we were very lucky to have him for those many years because his talents could have taken him to bigger places and many different.
“He could have taught in bigger places and got more recognition. But it’s not his way.”
Breiter noted that Banman inspired all three of her own children to pursue music. She also pointed to the importance of music -- along with reading, math and science -- in creating a well-rounded education.
Whoever replaces Banman, she indicated, will have big shoes to fill.
“He’s a gem,” she said. “His talent will not be easily replaced.”