From Marcus Roberts
Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Pianist
I write this letter with my strongest endorsement of Professor Jim Ketch. I have known Jim since 2003. His approach to teaching and his vast knowledge of jazz music and literature has had a profound effect on my own teaching strategies and mentoring techniques.
Jim has a wonderful way of communicating with young people. He is always full of supportive energy, and he gives very detailed and constructive recommendations on how each student can improve their own jazz performance skills. Jim always gives them advice that is grounded in respect and concern for the student’s development.
Jim was instrumental in helping me to craft the Savannah Music Festival’s Swing Central Band Competition. His knowledge and pedagogical acumen helped us to create a very successful educational program and competition for the twelve high school band finalists who attended each year from around the country. Jim understands ALL styles of jazz music. He is remarkably skilled at bringing students an authentic picture of how to approach jazz improvisation. He teaches his students to use interesting rhythms and to develop harmonic analysis tools, and he always encourages them to use melodic approaches to jazz phrasing when improvising.
Jim has a gift for getting students of all ages and stages of performance ability excited about playing jazz. His supportive and warm approach to teaching gives students the confidence they need to be comfortable trying out new things without feeling negatively judged. Jim also knows how to meet each student where they are at, in terms of development of their own skills and voice on their instrument. He always gives them thoughtful insight into how they can quickly improve in all areas of musical style.
Finally, Jim is also a great artist who can play jazz in all its ensemble configurations and styles, from New Orleans music through swing, bebop, and avant-garde, to what’s happening right now in jazz in 2022. He loves the music, and it comes through when you hear him play or teach.
I love working with Jim, and I feel strongly that he and I will have years of collaborative work ahead.
From Marc Townley
Fine Arts Director, Byron Center Public Schools, Byron Center, Michigan
Band Director, Byron Center High School
Byron Center, Michigan
I have worked with Jim Ketch in a variety of settings over the last decade, and through all of those experiences, I can say with tremendous sincerity that Jim is one of the finest all-around educators I have ever worked with.
Jim has been a consistent artist-in-residence in Byron Center. He is a master of teaching jazz improvisation at all levels and does so in a way that makes each and every student feel comfortable while boosting their confidence. I am always amazed at how Jim can listen to a student improvise one phrase and can then pinpoint exactly where the ability level of that student is and deliver the instruction of how that student can make instant improvements. He truly is a master.
Even more important than his abilities as an educator are Jim's amazing character, integrity, and values. He maintains the highest standards while motivating those around him to reach those standards as well. Prior to visiting our school, Jim always does extensive homework on the state of our program so he can deliver the best instruction when he arrives. And Jim's positive interaction with all of our students is incredible and inspirational.
For all of these reasons, Jim has become a valued member of our Byron Center Jazz family and we simply would not be on the level we are today without his mentorship and encouragement.
From Robert Hackett
Jazz Director AE Wright Middle School; Music Director Agoura High School
Agoura Hills, California
Jim Ketch is a superb educator who positively influences jazz musicians of all ages. I have known Jim for nine years, mainly through the Savannah Swing Central Jazz Competition/Festival. Jim is compassionate, extremely knowledgeable, and incredibly effective. His positive and friendly approach brought my students up several levels each time we participated at Swing Central. He is highly respected by his colleagues throughout the nation, as well as all students. Students feel empowered and excited when Jim leads them. Above all, Jim can PLAY!!!!!!! He demonstrates style, nuance, technique, and improvisation each time that he picks up his trumpet.
From David Robinson
Recently Retired Director of Bands at Panther Creek High School Cary, NC,
and former Director of Bands at C.E. Jordan High School, Durham, NC
When I first met Jim Ketch, I had just started my first-year teaching band at Jordan High School, Durham, NC (1986). Fresh out of college I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on Jazz, both playing and teaching. In the spring, we went to my first UNC Jazz Festival featuring Slide Hampton as a Clinician. My students had to play and be adjudicated by Slide Hampton. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and humbled (much needed), but Jim treated me like I was a veteran teacher and he introduced me to the clinicians as though I might be an important person. I left the jazz festival on fire, ready to get busy learning.
Anyone who has ever had the privilege to have Jim work with their groups understands this passion and raw energy he brings to every rehearsal. He is driven to not just rehearse a group but to instill a knowledge and love of this American music. In every rehearsal there is a history lesson, theory lesson, vocabulary lesson and always a lesson on swing. You can’t help but want to run home, download some CD’s and start practicing.
37 years later, Jim is still the number one source for me to turn to. He has supported many directors in so many different ways with clinics, literature suggestions, conference master classes, or Jazz Repertory performances. He is always willing to go the extra mile to help anyone who asks. I will never forget the year he asked me if I would be interested in allowing Marcus Roberts to do a residency with our Jazz Ensemble.
Along with his undeniable talent, Jim has always been a joy to work with. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with Jim and view him as a truly valuable asset to North Carolina. His love and passion for jazz music education is unmatched.
From Becca Clemens
Band Director, Margaret B. Pollard Middle School
Chapel Hill, NC
I have been fortunate enough to have Jim as a mentor since 2006. The years I spent participating in his collegiate big band were some of the most important and formative rehearsals in my life, and I still find myself reaching for his lessons and guidance daily. Jim is one of the hardest working advocates for jazz and jazz education alive today. His decades spent hosting UNC Ellington Jazz Festivals, giving performances, leading the NCJRO, offering clinics, and participating in school visits has made an immeasurable impact on generations of musicians and teachers.
Jim embodies what it means to be a lifelong learner. He cares just as much about developing his own musical technique as he does in perfecting his teaching. I’ve often noticed that he is the first person to pull out a writing pad to take notes at any opportunity. He can musically demonstrate any concept as well as he can explain it, and his years of experience have provided him with a never-ending supply of perfect quotes for every situation.
Jim is a master at breaking down advanced musical concepts for anyone at any ability level or age. His patience and encouragement give students the confidence to improvise. He can get the quietest middle schooler to sing in front of the whole class with some of the cleverest teaching techniques. Jim’s love and knowledge for jazz paired with his ceaseless energy makes him an educator of the highest caliber, and I cannot recommend him highly enough.