Tim Newkirk, Nevada Union’s new band director, aims to boost program offerings and inspire kids to fall in love with music.

“Music gives the kids a way to explore their creative side and to feel like they have done something artistic after a long day of homework, academics and P.E.,” he expressed animately.

Tim Newkirk
Tim Newkirk

Since Newkirk took over the prestigious instrumental music program last August after longtime director Ken Carter retired at the end of the 20-21 school year, he has conducted two stellar concerts and supervised the Pep Band rallies to motivate fans and players at NU football and basketball games.

He loves incorporating the competition element into the experience and led the kids in a slew of weekend competitions against other high schools in Northern California for Fall Marching Band, Winter Percussion, and Drum Major.

The awarding winning Jazz and Symphonic bands recently travelled to Disneyland to compete in the World Strides Heritage Festival where they were awarded Silver. Senior drummer Josiah Haines was recognized at the awards ceremony as a Soloist.

Newkirk is excited to showcase the Nevada Union Jazz Band in front of the community. The next performance is the annual Spring Swing event happening on May 7 at the Tao Te’ Cafe located at 151 Mill Street in Grass Valley.  Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for youth and available for purchase in advance at springswing.bpt.me or at the door. Attendees will be able to dance to popular swing tunes from the old classics of the 30s, 40s, dixieland jazz, and a few surprise hits from the 70s.

“I have never done anything like this before,”  Newkirk admitted. “I love all the support from the community and that the kids can see what it’s like to play in a real dance hall.”

Doors open at 6:00 p.m. The dance lessons by Jitterbug Inc begin at 6:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served and a silent auction will be held. Proceeds from the event  raise money for the Instrumental Music Program. The event ends at 9:00 p.m.

In preparation, Newkirk revealed that the kids are working on endurance in order to be ready for the 2-hour set.

“I want them to know that they can do almost anything with their music if they put their mind into it and do the work,” acknowledged Newkirk, who works himself an average of 70 to 80 hours a week. In addition to teaching at both the high school and Seven Hills middle school, he plans all the music and logistics for the performances and competitions. In his opinion, these types of experiences help kids fall in love with music and grow as musicians.

This dedication seems to be paying off. Approximately 60 talented high school musicians immerse themselves in at least one, and more often, multiple music programs each year at Nevada Union High School.  The upperclassmen also participate in Band Council which promotes leadership and empowerment skills.

“Band has been one of Ana’s most nourishing experiences at Nevada Union. Even through the pandemic, it gave her a community who cared about music the way she does,” said Kim Sagebiel, parent of senior Ana Sagebiel who has been the jazz band’s pianist for her four years of high school as well as an active member of the marching band, winter percussion, and band council. “Band has been such an anchor for her.”

Next year Newkirk hopes to be able to expand the program and attract more students by hiring additional staff to coach the percussionists, marching band and to launch Color Guard. He wants to the address the skill development learning loss brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic by hosting clinics this summer featuring musicians from the Nevada County Concert Band who can work one-on-one with students on specific instruments.  His plans are to revive the annual symphonic and jazz band trip to Hawaii and start up an advanced guitar class which will plant the seeds for a new competitive guitar ensemble. 

Looking back, Newkirk doesn’t remember a time when he fell in love with music. “I didn’t have a choice, music picked me,” he shared candidly. “I was that little kid who would walk around singing songs.”

His love for Jazz blossomed during high school in the Marino Valley where he also participated in marching band and winter percussion. Newkirk attended Riverside Community College, which solidified his decision to teach music. He earned a B.A. in Music education from Cal State Los Angeles.