Lessons & LaughterRead Now
TIM BELL | LESSONS & LAUGHTER
“Hey Baby!” came a familiar voice from behind me in the hallway of my music classes. Who was it...a student? No, believe it or not that voice was coming from a professor! It was the coolest cat on campus, Tim Bell. I can’t tell you how many times he greeted me that way, accompanied by his mischievous smile. To me and countless others, Professor Bell was an incredibly approachable and consistently encouraging soul. Tim, who passed away October 18th, 2017, richly blessed my time at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Throughout my years at Parkside and after graduation, Tim became so much more than just a teacher; he truly was a friend. Laughing with him in between classes, picking his brain on jazz and seeing him in the community for many years after was an absolute joy.
Tim taught me how to balance intensity and humor while in the classroom. The main way in which I saw this outworked was in our Big Band Jazz rehearsals. If we were butchering a tune-which happened more often than I would like to admit (partially because we played his difficult charts from the University of North Texas)-he would begin waving his hands and yell “You suck, you suck!” and stop the band. Now you might think that this is an awful thing for a professor to do, but he always had this cheeky grin on his face and would begin his signature chuckle. After he would have a good laugh at our expense, we would begin to loosen up and he would work sections in the group- teaching each person to understand their role and part better. Sometimes he would even start the band back up again by counting: “1-2-Don’t Suck!”. :)
He was a virtuoso on the Alto saxophone. Every musician there knew it and that’s part of what made us respect him so much. It made us want to do better. He was intense at the right time and in the right way. He wanted the musicians to rise to the challenge of the music. He wanted the group to be cohesive and he held us to a high standard. But he also knew how to loosen us up with timely humor. He loved what he did and that is what made me want to come to class and to study under him. He knew how to have a connection with the students and let them get to know him on a personal level. Tim made me want to work hard, study hard and play better for him every week because of his powerful motivation and belief in my abilities. His belief in me was inspiring especially because he could see potential in me that I couldn’t.
For nearly 20 years, I have been a music teacher and so much of my approach to teaching has come directly from what I saw modeled by Tim. But even beyond that there is so much more I have learned from him. I have learned that whatever setting we find ourselves in we can remember to fuse lessons with laughter and that we are all surrounded with people we can help in some way. I think one of the greatest ways we can impact people is by leaving a legacy of being joyful throughout life’s lessons, which Tim definitely demonstrated. In life, the means are just as important as the end. Maybe sometimes, the means are the end.
Thanks for the memories filled with laughter and a myriad of lessons Tim.
Currently diggin’ on:
11/7/2017 10:59:09 am
He was truly a unique individual! He will be missed by many!
11/8/2017 08:21:26 pm
Thanks for this on Tim Bell!!!
11/9/2017 06:39:41 am
What a terrific tribute to this great man and teacher. Everything you talked about I also experienced with Tim first hand. Tim is THE reason I did my undergrad at UW-P. What a joy to be able to not only play in his jazz ensemble, but to study one on one with him on saxophone and clarinet. And, man, he was a MONSTER player on both of those instruments!!! I will always treasure the two of us often walking over to the coffee shop to grab a quick cup of that terrible coffee and then coming back to shoot the bull for a few minutes before a lesson. He made me WANT to practice and become a better musician. RIP, Tim Bell
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