In celebration of Music for All’s 40th Anniversary in 2015, we are featuring profiles of music educators who have made a difference in Music for All and in band and orchestra education. In this post we feature a member of the Music for All Hall of Fame and respected high school band director.

40 for 40 greg bimm

Greg Bimm is the Director of Bands at Marian Catholic High School. Under his direction, the Marian Catholic Band has grown from 70 members to over 280 and is recognized as one of the premier high school band programs in the United States. The Marian Catholic marching band has been named Bands of America Grand National Champion more times than any other band (a total of seven fall Grand National Championships). The symphonic band was one of only eight bands invited to perform at the first National Concert Band Festival in 1992.

Mr. Bimm has received numerous National Band Association Citations of Excellence and has been awarded with the ASBDA Stanbury award for young band directors, the Sudler Order of Merit from the John Philip Sousa Foundation, the Distinguished Service Award by the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the “Mary Hoffman” Award of Excellence by the Illinois Music Educator’s Association.

Bimm is a member of Music for All’s Bands of America Hall of Fame, Illinois State University College of Fine Arts Hall of Fame, and is a Lowell Mason Fellow of the National Association for Music Education. 

Mr. Bimm holds degrees from Illinois State and Western Illinois University and an honorary doctorate from Vandercook College of Music.  His professional affiliations include ABA, ASBDA, IMEA, MENC, NCBA, NBA, Phi Beta Mu, and Phi Mu Alpha.  

In addition to his role as director of bands, Bimm has performed as conductor, clinician, adjudicator, drill writer, or music arranger throughout the United States and Canada.

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve just completed my 40th year of teaching! I’ve been at Marian Catholic High School for 38 years, and before that I taught for two years at Yorkwood School District in Western Illinois. 

What advice do you have for a new director who asks you “what are some things you wish someone had told you just starting out?”

There are four things that pop in my head right away:

1) “Wear the seat of your pants out studying scores.” (William Revelli told me this while I was attending Western Illinois University.)
2) Keep students at the center of your mission. Pursuit of quality music and excellence in that music is the key to that mission.
3) “Choose the hill you want to die on.” Do not draw a line in the sand at every impasse, for there will be many. Choose when it is both correct and NECESSARY to dig in. There are many more times that a strategic retreat or compromise can actually build credibility and “move the ball” much closer to your long term goal.
4) Be prepared to work harder than you every imagined and to have it be more worthwhile and rewarding than you could have every imagined. 

What has been your experience with Music for All? What events have you attended and in what roles, and what benefits do you believe Music for All programs can provide?

Where do I even start? My first participation was as an audience member at the first few Summer Nationals. In 1981, Marian Catholic was asked to be the BOA Summer Workshop/Festival (now MFA Summer Symposium) “clinic band” and learn a full show during the week of camp. There I had the opportunity to meet and work with Bob Buckner, LJ Hancock, and Fred Sanford among others. 

In 1982, Marian began participating in Summer National Marching Band Competitions, winning for five consecutive year from 1984 to 1988.  Marian did not compete in the summer of 1989, but, instead, our Symphonic Band gave an exhibition performance as one of the evening concerts (boy, was that an incredibly hot gym)! When Bands of America moved the Grand National Championships to Indianapolis in 1984, we began participating in Regional Competitions and Grand National Championships and have been involved ever since. All in all, we’ve had a very good run.

In 1992, we performed in the first Music for All National Concert Band Festival.  I remember the panel was incredible, including Revelli, Fennell, Paynter, Corporon, Cramer, and Maiello, with Arnald Gabriel as our clinician. We continued to participate in subsequent National Concert Band Festivals.

I’ve also had the good fortune of being on the staff for all of the Bands of America Honor Bands that have participated in the Rose Parades. Working with George Parks and Bob Buckner, the incredible Music for All staff, and the amazing performers has been very rewarding. 

What are some of the highlights and memorable moments from your experiences related to Music for All/Bands of America?

There are many but most importantly I’d have to say friends and colleagues. I’ve made many incredible friends through participation and there is no way to place a value on how much my personal and professional lives have been enriched by those many people.

Others include: 

  • Being named to the Music for All/Bands of America Hall of Fame would have to be a highlight.
  • Having my band at Marian play at that first National Concert Band Festival with those incredible evaluators and the feeling of being a part of history.

  • Witnessing my band sharing the stage with Etiwanda H.S., Lassiter H.S. and Westfield H.S. the Saturday morning at our second National Concert Band Festival (and the incredible concerts from Woodson H.S. and Lake Braddock earlier in the festival).

  • A spontaneous applause from the people in the finalists meeting at Grand National Championships last year.

  • The week spent in 1981 at the Summer Symposium with Bob Buckner LJ Hancock and Fred Sanford.

  • Meeting Alfred Watkins at the Whitewater Summer Symposium in the 80’s and talking about bands throughout the entire evening, only to be interrupted by sunrise.

  • A number of championship performances, especially the first at Summer Nationals and the first at Grand Nationals.

  • An even larger number of truly inspired performances by my wonderful students at Marian.

What do you like to see Music for All focus on or accomplish in the next 40 years?

I’d like the organization to certainly continue to work toward providing great opportunities for students in all areas and levels of music. Music for All and Bands of America has done so much, but there is still more to be done. In my specific area of interest, I hope Music for All continues to polish all aspects of the quality of its music experiences and helps advance our great band activity while always keeping quality music at its core.