Episode 176 – Take Care of YOU

You are not going to be the best teacher you can be if you don’t put your needs first – physical, relational, spiritual. When you take care of you, you are more equipped to serve your students. Everything in life works under the pay now or pay later rule.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 175 – Creating a Great Culture

In this podcast, I share some great tips and ideas that you can use to create traditions and develop a great culture in your band. You must be intentional in this. The traditions you create will often be the memories that students think of years from now. You have the power to create a terrific culture!

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Tube Socks, Giants, and a Teacher’s Trust

Have you ever had a teacher say or do something that had a huge impact on you for your entire life? I have had many of these opportunities.

Some teachers affect you in a negative way. I’ve had my share of those. Most of my teachers had huge, positive impacts on my life. My seventh grade band teacher was one of them.

I went to a rough school in seventh grade. Remember tube socks from the 70s? On the last day of school, it was not unusual to have some of the teens in the neighborhood surround the school bus – tube socks in hand – but with the addition of a large rock in the bottom of the tube sock. These teens would swing their rock-filled tube socks with the expertise of David swinging his slingshot at Goliath – except instead of using their rock to slay evil, they were intent on causing evil by smashing the windows of the school bus. I was a terrified 13 year old about to wet my pants.

Within the school I felt very safe. We were kept safe by a group of three security guards who were very tall – they seemed like Goliath to me in the heights they reached – and well-muscled – but the friendliest giants you ever knew! They made me feel safe. They developed relationships with students. I had my share of getting in trouble in seventh grade, but these giants loved me all the same…as did my band teacher.

The band teacher played saxophone like me. I can still see his face. I remember his encouragement as I learned saxophone for the first time. I remember his praise – his gentleness – his push for high standards – not just musically but morally too. I even remember when he lost his temper at the drummers one day, flung his conductor’s baton at them, only to have it bounce off the bass drum and come back and hit him in the head. We all had a good laugh, including him. I can’t for the life of me remember his name.

One day we were taking a trip to a local music festival where we would perform, receive feedback, and listen to others perform. Those of you who took band may remember this event as Large Group Festival. As our teacher prepared us, he reminded us that we were stopping for lunch and we should bring some money. He informed us that if we forgot our money, he would be glad to loan us some, but we would have to repay it. Then he said something I’ve remembered my whole life…”And if you don’t pay me back, that’s ok. It’s worth a couple of dollars for me to find out I can’t trust you.”

That teacher’s trust meant a lot to me – and it taught me an important lesson… Trust everyone unless they show you they can’t be trusted. Thank you Mister!

***James is a music teacher at a school very similar to the one he went to as a 7th grader. He is in his 23rd year of being an educator and attributes his success to all the wonderful teachers he had along the way. James grew up in poverty and abuse, but now shares his story of Your NOW doesn’t determine your FUTURE as often as his schedule allows. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net. Get his book on amazon Forgive: One man’s story of being molested…and God’s redemption.

7 (Fun) Rules for Eating During the Holidays

  1. Start with a huge glass of egg nog. This is to coat your stomach lining to keep it safe. Home made fudge also works in place of or in addition to egg nog.
  2. When whoever’s cooking isn’t looking, grab a healthy sample of what they’re cooking. You want to make sure it’s safe for the family. Can’t let them see you because they’ll feel bad that they didn’t think of it
  3. Skip anything green or anything with more than 50% vegetables. No sense in using space that could be filled with meat or pie
  4. If in doubt about whether to pour gravy on something, pour extra on it. You can’t go wrong.
  5. Eat a double portion of all desserts. It’s tasty, plus double portion sounds biblical.
  6. Take a nap
  7. Repeat numbers 1-6.

And don’t forget to be thankful for all the blessings in your life.

YOU are a blessing in mine.

YOU make my life rich.

I love you.

Episode 169 – Why I Don’t Do Christmas Concerts

This is a replay of an episode I recorded in 2012. Excuse the sound quality. Many of you may not even be doing ANY concerts this year, much less a Christmas concert. In this very short episode, I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on why I chose many years ago to not have Christmas concerts. Maybe this will give you an idea for the future, when concerts return and the pandemic is a thing of the past. Disclaimer – I do set students up in caroling groups and we go around the school, often with the choir. Easy – fun – very well received!

This is the last episode of 2020. I look forward to bringing you more content next year. I’d love to hear from you! Send me a question or comment at jamesthedivine@gmail.com.

Why I Don’t Trust the Media

I spent 1986-1996 as part of the Army band in Virginia, Japan, and Colorado. During that time we usually performed more than 200 times a year and often participated in high-profile events that included the media. I can’t tell you the number of wonderful events I was a part of that were featured on the news that night…

  • 1,000s of people were in attendance
  • There was free food and entertainment
  • Helicopters and tanks were on display for kids to climb on
  • Speeches were made and received with great applause
  • Veterans were celebrated, recognized, and congratulated
  • The media was everywhere, interviewing kids and veterans and joining in the festivities.

With anticipation, we all tuned in to the news that night, excited to see how our event would be portrayed on the news. Instead of the fun and festivities, we would see a two minute clip of the three protestors screaming obscenities from the base’s main gate. This was not a true representation of what had happened!

Then There was the Time I WON NCO of the Quarter

If you understand Army band musicians, you understand that we LOVE to be in the spotlight – at least when it comes to music-making – but we could care less about it when it’s an out of band recognition.

When I was in Japan, an office over the band realized we were never sending candidates for the NCO of the Quarter competition, so we were ordered to send candidates. When it was my turn to try out, I ended up winning the competition. I was a snarky early 20s young man who hadn’t even wanted to go to the competition. But I won and was interviewed by the Stars & Stripes reporter…

S&S: What made you want to enter this competition?
Me: I didn’t want to, but we were forced to send someone

S&S: What does it feel like to have won this honor?
Me: I really could care less about it.

S&S: What did you do to prepare yourself for this competition?
Me: Nothing.

I would have totally understood if the reporter had decided to not submit my story because of my lackadaisical attitude and responses. I was shocked when I read the story in the paper and it said something along the lines of, “SSG Divine spent hours preparing for the NCO of the Quarter Competition. He told Stars & Stripes, ‘I worked hard and have wanted this honor for many years. My countless hours of preparation paid off.'”

I was dumbfounded!

Now imagine this (fake) headline

Man Spends 25% 0f Daily Commute at One Stoplight!

How does this headline make you feel? Do you feel bad for the commuter? Do you think “Thank God that’s not my commute?” Do you wonder why he doesn’t take a different way? Do you wonder why traffic engineers don’t do something about this? 

What if I add that the commute is only ten minutes, 2.5 of which are at this particular stoplight at a major intersection? Does this change what you think? 

Man’s commute varies from 10, to 30, and sometimes 60 minutes

Poor guy! He must live in a populous city like New York, or D.C, or L.A to have such a varied commute. 

The truth…some days he drives the four mile commute, some days he rides a bike, and others he walks.

Now consider these three very possible headlines…

Interest rates fall – fixed income, elderly in trouble

Interest rates rise – would be homeowners priced out of the market

Interest rates stay the same – is the economy stagnating?

When you read or hear a story in any media – newspapers, news shows, radio, etc. – be EXTREMELY careful. It is often easy for the media to “tell the truth” while not being entirely honest. 

The Cruelty of Quarantine

By Melanie Wiseman
Reprinted with permission.
Original credit goes to:
Life After 50 October 2020 issue, The Voice of Adults 50+ in the Pikes Peak Region

A daughter’s search for compassion amid a pandemic

Until recently, the COVID-19 pandemic was a mere inconvenience. I still biked, hiked, camped and enjoyed small socially distanced gatherings with friends. Everything changed when my mother’s health suddenly and rapidly declined in a Wisconsin independent living apartment 1,200 miles away.

My siblings and I were now among the thousands of families being kept away from fragile loved ones when they needed us most. Our quarantined parents were prisoners to the virus.

Health is wholeness

On March 11, two days after celebrating my dad’s 94th birthday, their independent living facility went into lockdown. My plane ticket to visit the following week would have to wait. Never did I imagine I’d be flying out two months later, just to watch my mother through her bedroom window with tears in her eyes, arms outstretched, longing to give me a hug.

Even though it was meant to protect residents’ health, the quarantine did the opposite. With her heart weakening, lack of movement and exercise meant fluid filled Mom’s legs and around her lungs, and tethered her to an oxygen machine.

Meals were brought to my parents’ room, and all in-person socialization with friends and family came to a halt. They became depressed and anxious, with little to look forward to. The only people they had personal contact with were masked facility staff.

“Health is wholeness—the total wellbeing of the person,” said Dad. “There is physical pain and there is emotional pain.”

Their wholeness was not being cared for. Isolation took away any quality of life my mom had left. Each time I called my parents would say, “At least we have each other. We think of all the people going through this alone.”

Searching for compassion

By the time Dad ultimately said, “Come home,” I had just over a week with Mom before she died. Each day, I pleaded with the facility director to be able to physically and freely hug, hold and comfort them both. Every day I was told, “No.”

From behind windows, screens and iron fences, I watched as my mom, now a shadow of herself, was comforted by those who were strangers to me. These “strangers” then went home to their families and friends, while my mom’s own family stood outside.

My father was by my mother’s side at all times, exhausted, but extremely attentive. His being there was our only consolation as anger and frustration built up among us children and grandchildren.

Fortunately, Mom knew what was happening and was at peace, which was the greatest gift she could give us. In return, we wanted to grant her deepest desire: the ability to hold her family. We’d been denied for months; surely at the end of her life, compassion would prevail over rules.

But even as a hospice team was called, we were denied entry. The facility told us that when our mom was “actively dying”—within 48 hours of her death—family would be allowed to visit two at a time. But they never called it. We did.

After we’d visited Mom in the morning on June 11, my sister, her daughter and I recognized the nearness of my mom’s passing and pressed harder than ever to be allowed to spend time with her. The three of us were finally given one hour that afternoon. We used that hour to its fullest, taking off our masks when staff left the room and watching Mom light up like a Christmas tree as she saw our smiles and faces. We listened closely to her fading voice and reminisced over photos of her life growing up on a farm in Michigan.

“When I was a young person, I thought a lot about what my purpose was, and then I met your dad, and I knew. We would do it together,” she said. “I no longer have a purpose, but now it’s you kids’ and grandkids’ turn to take over for us.”

When the hour was up, my sister and I each gave her a hug and told her how much we loved her. As we went to leave, she quietly called me back.

“I need another hug,” she said. I tearfully complied at length and once again we told each other, “I love you.”

I assured her we would see her tomorrow morning. But there was no tomorrow. My mother, beautiful both inside and out, died in her sleep that night.

The price of protection

Why, you might ask, would I choose to share such a personal experience? Because this story is happening every day, all over the world. Facilities are “protecting” people from the virus, but at what cost?

The distressing end to lives from COVID or amid its restrictions is hard to fathom, but it’s very real. Families who just want to hold their dying loved ones face a moment in history where isolation reigns and liability overrules compassion.

I strongly believe that my mom’s death came quicker, not from heart failure, but from a broken heart. Did she die from COVID? No. Did she die much sooner because of it? Absolutely. My father agreed that the isolating confinement caused by the pandemic both rushed her death and was an undeniably cruel way to die.

“It’s time for me to grieve and adjust after falling in love with your mom every day for the last 72 years,” Dad said. “There isn’t a normal way to do that in this current situation.”

Sadly, the quarantine cruelty continues. The day after my mother died, Dad went back to being alone in their apartment, with no visitors. He FaceTimes with his children and grandchildren, but it’s no substitute for stimulating contact and social communication. He can’t leave the facility except for essential appointments. A “prisoner” once again.

In loving memory of  Wilma Katherine Baumbach July 27, 1930 – June 12, 2020

4 Tips to Help you be a Better Band Director using the Acronym BAND.

4 Tips to Help you be a Better Band Director using the Acronym BAND.

There are four key areas that – if you focus on these and make them a priority – they can help you be a better band director. None of them have anything to do with music, but the word “BAND” does fall nicely into place to help you remember them.


Watch what you eat! When life gets busy, it can be very easy to grab something to go. I once was 30 pounds heavier than I am right now, all due to poor eating choices and failure to plan. Plan ahead what you are going to eat. Buy some healthy snacks. Keep them in a fridge at work, in your glove compartment, wherever. Pack a healthy lunch. Watch the pizza. I once ate 8 slices at a football game and regretted it for the next day and a half. I could do that when I was 18, but I’m in my 50s now.


Move your body. Exercise is important, not only to your physical self, but your emotional and mental health too. Pick something you like. Jogging, hiking, swimming, biking, walking. Put more ing in your life. You should strive for a minimum of 20-30 minutes 4-5x a week. It will lengthen your career and leave you feeling like you have more energy. Warning: When I was 30 pounds heavier and first embarked on exercising and eating better, I initially felt worse. This is normal.


Get plenty of sleep. The amount is different for each person. I need 7 hours a night, so I try to make sure I get that at least 6 nights a week. Try napping. The floor of my office often became a 10 minute nap area during marching season. Students have posted hundreds of pictures of me sleeping on the bus on a trip.


Have a life outside of band. I heard of a band director who does not allow himself to read anything unless it is something that will help his band. I think this is unhealthy. Take up a hobby. It might even be music related, but not be something you need to do for a living. I had to quit giving lessons for the most part because I felt like my day was never ending, but I perform, record and compose simply because I like to and it’s an outlet for me. I also hike, bike and meet with friends (and spend time with my family of course).

When life gets off track and you’re not sure what to do, think B.A.N.D.

Doing Part-Time Work Within the Four Corners of Your Home

Photo Credit: Pexels

Guest Post by: Aliyah Kaye Cheney

Education offers great long-term value for our youth. However, students in high school and college need to get some work experience now to better prepare themselves for life in the workforce. For students from low-income families, working while studying is also means to an end. Unsurprisingly, they make up a big chunk of the 70% of college students who work even while enrolled.

Of course, there are drawbacks to this setup, like the possibility of declining grades. But when done right (less than 15 hours of work weekly is most ideal), the benefits are many: sustained good performance at school, improved work ethic, development of soft skills, expansion of social and professional networks, and of course, some extra cash. That said, now seems like a good a time to be part of the work-while-studying population, as opportunities for part-time work are increasing.

In fact, jobs like freelancing are fast becoming the norm thanks to a host of different factors (e.g., improvement of technology, increasing popularity of work-from-home setups, and this lingering health situation). Case in point, writer James Gonzales points out in an article on remote work that there are over 56.7 million freelancers in the U.S. as of 2018 — a 3.7 million increase from the 5 years prior. Demand for home-based work figures to rise even more with this health crisis proving the viability and usefulness of remote work. Indeed, such opportunities should not be missed by students today.

The key is finding a suitable part-time, work-from-home job. That process, incidentally, is similar to looking for full-time work, as already outlined in the post ‘Searching for a Job?’ The process takes due diligence, starting with a job search — but instead of looking at traditional job listing sites right away, you might want to check out online freelance sites such as UpWork, Guru, Freelancer, and Fiverr. Entrepreneur Laurence Bradford details in a feature on where to find freelance work how these sites can help novice freelancers find work in simple, albeit lower-paying, projects first to gain experience, build their portfolio, and expand their network. These can help lead to more opportunities to take on bigger, higher-paying projects.

Not to mention, there are different types of freelance jobs, with opportunities for students of every skillset. Content creators and creatives, like writers and artists, in particular, are in high demand. The same is true for those knowledgeable in web design, computer programming, and software troubleshooting. Students without such skills can partake in the gig economy, too, via online typing or data entry jobs, whose main skill requirement is being able to type accurately, but at above-average speeds. And as an Entrepreneur listicle of work-from home jobs notes, such jobs do not require previous experience, but can earn one a starting salary of $10 per hour.

Slightly more demanding are transcriber/transcriptionist jobs, as they entail listening to audio files and then typing out the words. But like data entry, these jobs are entry-level, though their $25-an-hour rate is much higher. In addition, students who are meticulous and highly organized can try being virtual assistants, whose tasks include sorting and replying to emails, organizing schedules, inputting data, and assisting with social media (for a rate between $10 and $15 per hour).

Indeed, students who want to do part-time work from the comforts of home have an assortment of options. But it is up to you to find those opportunities, and to take advantage of them. Good luck!

Written by Aliyah Kaye Cheney
Exclusive for jamesdivine.net

The Grandmother I (Almost) Never Had

My Italian mom told me so many stories of her father – how she struggled to keep up with his long legs while he walked with purpose, how proud she was of him providing for her family, and especially how he told Bible stories to his 9 kids, making them come alive with his story-telling skills.

(my grandfather)

I never got to meet my grandfather. He passed away too early when I was about 2 years old. And my grandmother followed very shortly after him.

We had left my dad because he was abusive, so I wasn’t connected on that side of the family. As a child I felt deprived and jealous. Other kids had a dad. Other kids had grandparents. I had a ton of aunts and uncles, but they lived in Italy, thousands of miles away.

The lifesaver for me was church. Not only was it the place I learned about my Creator and how I could have a deep relationship with him that transcends this life, but there were so many opportunities to surround myself with friends, mentors, and teachers. There were many of these relationships I didn’t fully appreciate until I was fully into my middle years.

Mom belonged to the older singles group at church. Most of the people in that group had never been married and didn’t have kids. They were in their late 20s and early 30s. Mom had two kids. The teachers of the class – Mr. and Mrs. Thomas – had two kids of their own who were about the same age as my sister and me. As part of teaching the class, they often planned fun outings to the beach, to the park, barbecues, and get togethers. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas were not only class (and classy) teachers, they embraced us, loved us, poured into our lives and changed our lives. They were the first couple I can remember who showed me what a marriage could be like. This had a deep and lasting impact on me!

On one occasion we went out to dinner with the Thomas family, and Mr. Thomas’ mom was also there. I doubt the restaurant is still open, but I can show you exactly where it was in Norfolk, Virginia. I saw the way Rene and Tommy and their grandmother interacted and I was jealous. Their grandmother was such a nice and compassionate lady. She was fun, loving, and witty. She oozed joy and exuberance about life. During dinner, I expressed my dismay at not having my own grandmother. “Grandma Thomas” – as she later became known in our house – said that she would “adopt” us as her grandkids.

(L to R) my sister Mimmy, Grandma Thomas, Mom)

These were not empty words on her part. She already had a quiver full of grandkids, but she became our real grandmother. She began to be a regular part of our lives and treated us as if she WAS our grandmother. When my first child was born about a decade later, Grandma Thomas made a blanket for her. Grandma Thomas never got to hear from me what an impact her life had made. She went the way of the world and passed on to the other side.

I know we will meet in heaven someday. I will run to her, scoop her up into my arms, and tell her what an impact she made in my life! 

Who can you be a grandparent to?

(P.S. My grandmother was also a writer. She was a frequent contributor to Readers Digest, The Saturday Evening Post, Mature Living, National Enquirer, and IEA news among others. Following is a poem she wrote that is one of my favorites.)

 Spray Job

My dog is so obedient,

He does what he is bid;

The park bench said, “Wet Paint”

And that’s just what he did.

My wedding day!
(L to R) Grandma Thomas, Rene, Lynn

Lights. Cameras. Action. – Tips for Online Teaching

You don’t have to be an expert at teaching via camera. Start with what you know and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. You will get better!

In this tutorial, I share some strategies for making better videos, with tips about lighting, background, making the camera your friend, and what I mean by pre-roll and post-roll. Enjoy, and watch for my videos coming soon called “The Two Minute Teacher Tune-up”.

Purchase the light I use here (affiliate link)

10 Steps to Writing a Book in 9 Months

If I can write a book, anyone can do it. I’ve had the honor of writing six. I’m working on number seven right now. Here are ten steps to follow…

  1. Start with an idea – you probably already have a few or you wouldn’t be reading this.
  2. Brainstorm chapter headings – sometimes just writing – not editing – makes room in your brain for more ideas.
  3. Start writing in a word document so you can save it. Don’t worry about format or editing too much at this point, or even the number of words you are writing. Set a reasonable goal for yourself, maybe 500 words a day. Many word processing programs will give you a word count. There is no right or wrong answer for how long or short a book needs to be. I think most books are too long.
  4. Post each chapter as a blog post. I was aiming for one a week. You may do more or less. Don’t worry too much about editing. What’s the purpose of this? Get some feedback from some of your (hopefully) strongest supporters – friends and family. Does the story/subject resonate with them?
  5. At some point, you will realize you are near the end. Take what you have written and begin to edit it. Cut out extra words. Add stories or details that you forgot to add the first time around. What works best for me is to actually print it out and mark all over the paper.
  6. Go to Kindle Direct Publishing and set-up an account. If you already have an amazon account, you will be able to log in using that. Start working with the online cover editor. Make decisions about the size of the book. Download their template and start formatting your material to the template.
  7. Order a proof copy. Not required but I highly recommend it. I made some changes after seeing my proof.
  8. Order your books. I ordered 50 copies originally and within two weeks had to reorder, mainly because I had given so many away. My physical books cost me about $2.50 a copy. I sell them for $12-$15. Digital books are free to make.
  9. Selling…It helps if you already have a “platform.” In other words, you should have a way to sell the book. In my case, I am a motivational speaker part time and am able to sell the book at my events. If you don’t have a platform, think of how you can create or incorporate one.
  10. Be realistic. I sold about 5 copies the first month my book was out. Dan Miller of 48 Days fame says it takes two years for a book to really get going. Be persistent and stay encouraged.

I created a course on Udemy that takes you step by step through this process. For a limited time, get 50% off by following this link.

Udemy offers a full 30 day money back guarantee. Try the course – some have even gotten through the lessons in a few days – and if you don’t think it was worth every penny, Udemy will refund your money.

America The Beautiful – My Tribute

America…the greatest country on the face of the Earth.

Are we perfect? No way! But we strive for what our founding fathers had a vision for.

Those men were endowed with heavenly wisdom to put into writing the standards of justice and equality that we should strive for.

When I was in the Army – and now even in my position as a public school teacher – I swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic.

This is my tribute to our flag, to the United States, and to the Constitution, especially the 1st amendment.

Tribute to My Dad

I once had a friend who was very overweight and had diabetes. We were hanging out and he ordered a double sugar, extra fat, triple whipped cream something or other from the coffee chain. When I expressed surprise that he was able to drink that, he showed me his insulin pump attached to his hip and told me he could eat or drink whatever he wanted. He was being treated for the symptoms of diabetes.

Our country has a severe case of “diabetes” as shown by all the crazy violence taking place, but that is just a symptom of what’s really going on! The disease is the absence of fathers in our culture.

I could have been one of those hoodlums racing around taking TVs from Target, but I was fortunate because when I was 17, I started dating Susan. Eventually we married, and her dad became my dad. By example, he taught me what it meant to be a man – to be faithful to God and family – to work hard – to honor your word. I am blessed because he is NOT my father-in-law, but he truly is my Dad.

When our first child was little, we were teaching her how to say “Grandaddy.” Instead she said “G-Daddy” and the man who is a superhero to many finally was anointed with his superhero name.

Dad, you’re not getting a card this year – just this song and video, but I hope you know how much I love you and respect you and how thankful I am for all the things you’ve taught me. However, I’m saving up for the Ferrari for you. Only $299,997.52 to go!

Episode 159 – I Almost Didn’t Join 6th Grade Band

Episode 159

Thirty two years at a job I love – 22 years of that teaching! It’s hard to believe. But it’s also hard to believe that I almost didn’t join band. In this episode, I share my story of joining 6th grade band. Listen all the way through to the end as there is a free gift offer.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $40? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

I have four courses at Udemy: Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days, Get Started Writing a Book because I think everyone has a book inside of them waiting to come out, and two free courses, 40 Ways To Make Money as a Musician, and 30 Days of Motivation

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Sometimes You Need a Coach

Ever since I was a little boy, I have gone against the grain. I remember sitting outside the Base Exchange in Naples, Italy, selling my used comic books after I was done reading them. As a 7 year old, I would knock on doors asking apartment dwellers if I could take their trash out for a quarter. I always had money in my pocket!

Many of my friends in high school decided to pursue something other than their dream job because it “paid better” or was “more practical”. I was fortunate to have a mom who encouraged me to be and do whatever I wanted. She had confidence in me. I have always been doing my dream job (except for that year at age 30 delivering pizzas, but I did learn a lot during that time).

If I said everything was always perfect, I would be lying, but when I look back, the difficult times were often due – as Zig Ziglar would say – to “stinkin thinkin”.

I joined the Army band right out of high school. I had a blast until the Army moved me to Japan and I was away from my family for four months. That’s when I started my “stinkin thinkin” and was not a fun person to be around. It had a negative effect on me and my family (thanks to my sweetheart for putting up with me).

I was in the Army for ten years and knew it was time for a change, so I became a self-employed touring musician. Times were tough, mainly because of poor decisions I made and not knowing how to price myself.

I delivered pizzas about twenty hours a week just to make ends meet. When a part time band teacher position opened up, I took it so I could quit pizza delivery.

I liked my previous jobs but I was PASSIONATE about teaching. That eventually went to full time, so I had to cut back on the performing.

There are sometimes difficult times when teaching in public school, but most Mondays I am raring to be back at work, teaching music to young people. There is nothing that I would rather do.

When I talk to my friends – most of whom hate their jobs – I realize how fortunate I am to have a job I love. I have started to realize that many of them made the wrong choice as teenagers. The choice to give up something they loved to do something they hated…all for money.

Once you start making that choice, it is harder to come back to something you love. God created work, and it was around before the fall. God told Adam to work and care for the garden. Somewhere in our history, work has turned into a dirty word. Find something you love to do, do it with passion and as unto the Lord.

***Sometimes you just need a coach. If you need a coach, sign up with me HERE. I specialize in the music and education fields, as well as transitioning military.

Episode 158 – A Love Letter to Title I Teachers

Coronavirus definitely brought out some of the inequities in teaching. Many teachers at Title I schools found their students could not connect or were absent from online learning. Yet, you DO make a difference, and that’s why this love letter is devoted to you.

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Hashtags Don’t Change The World

Several years ago, the school community I was a part of suffered a terrible tragedy! A mom and three of her kids died in a highway accident. The dad was not on this trip and survived. Two of the kids were in the same class that I taught. It was a small class of about 20 students. The students were a really tight knit group. The loss hit us all really hard.

The accident happened in the early part of summer vacation. This makes it harder to process because we weren’t all together to cry, to share stories, and to work through our grief. Personally, I was in a fog for at least three weeks after hearing the news. I could not get the tragedy off my mind. There were times I couldn’t sleep. There were times I imagined how horrible it was for dad. One of the students had ended the school year with our relationship not completely intact. Although it was just normal teen angst, I was tormented over whether I could have reached out more and restored the relationship. Now I would never get the chance.

When school started that fall, we naturally started to process our grief all over again. After consulting with the school counselors, we made sure to have a therapy dog there in class the first day. We didn’t even do our normal start of the year procedures. That would have to wait. We shared stories of the two students, talked about our love, we cried, we hugged, and we talked through our feelings. Plans were made to purchase and install some type of memorial to the lost students on our classroom wall. Life started to get back to normal as much as possible.

A few weeks after school started up, one of my student’s moms called me and asked if we could meet. She wanted to share what she had heard from several of the students. Imagine my surprise and hurt when she told me that several students thought I didn’t care much about these two students’ passing. I was heart-broken. I felt a stab of pain. I was confused. I started to cry. How could they think I didn’t care? Didn’t they hear me talk about how much I missed the students? Didn’t I share with them how I was numb for three weeks? Didn’t we forego our usual start of the year routine so we could take time out to grieve – and we continued to take time as necessary to continue to grieve.

The mom told me the students felt this way because I didn’t post anything about it on facebook. She explained that she had informed them that everyone processes grief differently, and that this was my way of processing grief. I even set up a meeting with a few students who seemed to be most affected. I apologized to them and we worked through this. I thought they understood my reasons – privacy, facebook is not the place for that, etc. Ultimately the grief and lack of forgiveness led to these relationships never being exactly the same.

Hashtags don’t change the world.

If this had been just one story rather than a trend I see, it would be easier to pass it off. However, I see this trend happening on social media in every major injustice and tragedy we see…

  • An injustice takes place
  • People rise up and say “something needs to be done!” (by the way, this response is good)
  • A lot of sound bites and hashtags happen on social media (this is ok, but still doesn’t solve the issue above)
  • If someone appears to be silent or doesn’t buy into the hashtag or posts anything but the topic of the hashtag, he or she is shamed and accused of not caring (this is 100% wrong)
  • A flurry of activity happens, then the next hashtag comes along

In this scenario, nothing gets done! 

Nothing changes. 

People end up with hurt feelings. 

Relationships are damaged.

Hashtags don’t change the world.

Imagine this scenario… A father has a family of six to feed. He and others agree that something needs to be done. He and his friends all post on their social media and decide that they are going to plant food to grow. His backyard is plowed under and turned into a mini-farm with all sorts of crops. He even receives advice on how to water and nurture the plants so he can have food for the family. Then the next day, he wakes up and instead of working on his mini-farm, he starts a new hashtag mission. Within days the fledgling plants all die and he still has no food for his family. 

Hashtags don’t change the world.

What does change the world? Long term action inspired by love. Here are a few examples.

  • Churches that have food programs, but they don’t simply hand out food. They invest in the lives of their community. If someone needs a job, they help that person. If someone needs counseling, they work to get them that. Same thing with job skills. These churches help the immediate need but also look to how to solve the symptom. There are thousands of these churches all across our country.
  • A friend of mine has adopted 15-20 children. Most of them were adopted as teenagers. In fact, I have three friends who do this! They are changing the world.
  • John Walsh – whose son Adam Walsh was abducted and murdered – turned his grief into the show “America’s Most Wanted”, which has been credited with capturing over 1200 of America’s worst crime fugitives.
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving was formed by a mom who lost a child to a drunk driver

Hashtags don’t change the world.

Well James, what can I do?

You can pray (but don’t stop there).

You can read and study, but make sure you read and study the right things (but don’t stop there).

You can adopt a fatherless child. Maybe you can’t bring them into your home like my three friends, but can you invite them to your family events once in a while?

Look around in your own community. If you see a need and you are equipped to help, do it. I think sometimes we think filling a need always involves money. Maybe you have a skill that can help. Maybe you know of a job. Maybe you can babysit. Maybe you can cook. Maybe you can mentor. Maybe you can bravely speak up when you see injustice happen. I personally think when we are involved in a church community, we have a greater chance of seeing needs and having our needs filled. Attend a local church. 

Hashtags don’t change the world. Actions by loving people do.

*** James has been a teacher for 22 years. He currently teaches at a Title 1 school in Colorado Springs. Ever since he was five years old – when Jesus Christ changed his life from the inside – he has had a desire to look out for the underdog. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net

The Sheep, The Sheepdogs and the Wolves

There are three types of people in the world: The Sheep, The Sheepdogs and The Wolves.

Most people are sheep. They live a somewhat normal life…they go to work, do what they’re told, pay their taxes, raise their families, watch tv, hang out on weekends. For the most part not creating any waves. Most of them think life is great until…

– dun dun dun – the wolves attack.

images_1The wolves are all around us. Some of them are obvious, like the criminals we see in the news each day. Some of them are not as obvious; they may even occupy leadership positions in business, government, education and religion.

The wolves are out to steal, kill and destroy. The wolves are on the prowl for the weak sheep, those who have fallen away from the herd, those who are scared, those suffering from an injury. The wolves are out to fulfill their own needs and care nothing for the sheep.

images_2The sheepdogs have a mission…protect the sheep from the wolves and sometimes from the sheep themselves! The sheepdogs round up the sheep, promoting unity. This makes it much harder for the wolves to attack.  The wolves like wounded and solitary sheep because – at heart – the wolves are cowards.

The sheepdogs often bark in warning to keep the sheep together. The sheepdogs sometimes have to inflict pain through a nip on the legs of the sheep. When compared to being eaten by wolves, this pain is minimal but necessary. The sheepdogs often feel lonely.

Like the wolves, you can find many sheepdogs in leadership positions in business, government, education and religion. Occasionally you will find a sheepdog that is controlled by wolves. These can be more dangerous than the wolves.

Even though the lives of the sheep are dependent upon the sheepdogs, the sheep often hate the sheepdogs. Some sheepdogs look like wolves; they have sharp teeth and claws and are always barking, but it’s to protect the sheep! The sheepdogs often get into terrible fights with the wolves to protect the sheep.

images_3Over them all is the Good Shepherd, Jesus. He gave His life for the sheep. Many of them hate Him too. Many of them reject Him. He made the sheepdogs. He gave the sheepdogs their mission because He cares for the sheep even more than the sheepdogs do. The Good Shepherd warned us that the wolves often come to us in sheep’s clothing.

How about you? Are you a sheep, a sheepdog or a wolf? Maybe you’re a sheep controlled by a wolf? Have you met the Shepherd?

Don’t Confuse Being Famous With Making Money

Many people set their aim on becoming famous, thinking that’s the path to earning money as a musician. It’s not. There are famous people who make money, but there are many musicians you probably have never heard of who make $75,000 a year or more plugging away in their local community.

I have a friend who ran a band that played at weddings and parties in Atlanta. He was making a lot of money. He said it was really hard work. He owned the equipment. He booked the events. He paid the musicians. In short, he operated his band like a business. He was never famous but made a tidy profit.

Setting your heart on fame may be fleeting. If you set your heart on money – and that’s your main focus – in the long term you will be dissatisfied. If you set your heart on adding value to people’s lives, you will change the world – or at least your community.

***this article first appeared in the book The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and tips from my 30+ years in music. Get your free copy by signing up on my list below or order on amazon. James has been in the music field for 33 years. Sometimes as a musician or educator, you just need a coach. Check out James’ coaching services.

Searching for a Job?

Did you know that the ancient Hebrew language does not have a word for coincidence? I “found” my first teaching job by “coincidence”. (in quotes because I don’t believe in that word)

I was performing full time and wanted to give teaching a try. I would not have sought out a full time teaching job, but money was tight and I had started delivering pizzas part time to make ends meet; a job I despised.

The principal of a local private school lived across the street from me. We could have bought any house in Colorado Springs. He could have bought any house in Colorado Springs. The fact that we were neighbors was no coincidence!

We weren’t friends, but his daughter babysat for us and he knew I was a musician. When the half time band teacher job opened up at his school, he asked if I was interested. I said, “Yes.” He scheduled an interview for me.

The day I showed up for my interview, there was chaos everywhere. At the time the school functioned with a “let’s put out the latest fire” style of leadership. I never was interviewed. I observed a few classes. Afterwards, they asked me if I was interested in the job and hired me on the spot.

I mentioned that I wasn’t quite done with my bachelor’s degree yet – I needed three more classes – and they said that was fine as long as I finished that school year. Yay! I was able to quit delivering pizzas.

A few weeks after being hired, I went to the school to fill out paperwork. The former band teacher showed up wondering why she didn’t receive her July paycheck. That’s when she found out she was being let go.

A week or two later, I tried to cash my first paycheck. It bounced! It turned out to be a clerical mistake. The payroll account was short by a couple of cents, but it did leave me wondering what kind of place I was working for.

To sum it up, my first teaching job…

  • Did not require that I have my bachelor’s degree
  • Was part-time
  • Did not pursue an interview with me

It was a great learning experience for me. I quickly realized teaching was my calling! I love teaching! I love performing! I was able to do both. My second year the position grew to 3 classes. That was the year I had 120+ gigs. I was somehow able to keep up that pace with a lot of coffee and many late night drives to get home from a gig. Because of that, I wasn’t in the best of health. As my third year approached, I could see the teaching would grow to full time. I was torn. I knew I could not keep up the pace I had been maintaining while teaching full time. I pondered over this for a long time and decided that the bulk of my time would go to teaching while the performing would become part time. I believe you can do both. I believe many of you are called to do both. The mix between the two will vary by each individual and where you are in life.

I settled into teaching and perfected my craft. I had lots of enthusiasm, but not much experience in classroom discipline. I became a disciple of classroom discipline and now know a lot. About my fifth year of teaching, I knew I had grown as much as I could in that position and it was time for a change. I had one small problem: I did not have a teaching license.

When I would talk to professors at music schools, they all answered my query the same way…if you want to become a licensed teacher, quit your job, come to our school and in two years you will be a certified teacher. That simply was not an option for me with a family to support.

I found a program through Western State University that allowed me to teach full time while earning my teaching license. I applied, the Colorado Department of Education accepted the Army School of Music as meeting the music credits I needed, and I earned my teaching license during my 7th year at the private school. That leads me to the job search process I used for my current job.

The Job Search Process

I looked for job openings on school district websites, searched music education job websites, networked with friends, looked on local job search sites, and basically did everything I knew to find out about jobs. I applied for 25-30 job openings. Sometimes it was slow going…there were weeks when nothing opened up!

Eventually, I was called for six interviews and received two job offers. They were not the right jobs for me. One was at a private school in Ft. Meyers Florida – a move that my wife and I were not ready to make – and one was at a school in northeast Colorado. The band program was a good fit, but the town did not offer any job opportunities for my wife.

After turning down the second offer in early May – and having already notified my school that I was planning on leaving – the job market seemed to dry up. This was when I really had to call on my faith in God! Nothing happened for the next two weeks.

Finally there was an opening at a suburban school east of Colorado Springs. I applied and was called in for an interview. One of the parents of a student of mine at the private school I taught at was a math teacher there. He put in a good word for me.

At the interview, one of the questions was, “It’s the day before the concert. The students are totally unfocused, running around the room, acting crazy. What would you do?” I pondered this question for a minute or two and answered, “I would not have allowed it to get to that point.” There was some laughter from the interviewers and they responded with “Great Answer.” I was offered the job about three weeks later (they were a very sloooow district).

I was the 5th or 6th band teacher in as many years. The position had become a revolving door. There seemed to be no future there. Many of my colleagues asked, “Are you SURE you want to go work at ________?” I decided to give it a three-year commitment. That was 2005. I stayed for 13 years.

Don’t let a program’s history affect your decision to work with it. Was it hard work? You better believe it! Were there times when it was discouraging? Definitely! Was it worth it to see the program grow to success? You bet! Persistence is key.

I left that position in 2018 and currently teach band and orchestra at a Title I Middle School in Colorado Springs. That job search process was very similar to the earlier one.

More Musician Math

25 Applications + 6 Interviews + 3 Job Offers = Success!

What if I had given up after applying to five schools? I may have had no interviews.

What if I had taken that first job? It may have put a strain on my family.

What if I had taken the advice of some of my colleagues? I would have missed a great opportunity.

Ideas to Help Your Job Search

It may be time to get creative! Why wait for your ideal job? Why not create your ideal job? In the course of my job search, I heard about many small towns that eliminated their music program because they could not find a qualified teacher. What if you were to offer your music teaching services as a contractor? You could create the job you want AND be self-employed. Maybe the school district pays you $15,000 a year to just teach band – or just teach orchestra – or just teach general music – or just teach guitar – you get the idea. What if you put 5 of these positions together? You could pull in $75,000.

Not everyone is meant to be a full time teacher. Maybe you want to perform AND teach. There are many private schools or small districts that would be willing to hire a half time teacher. But be aware. Sometimes these half-time positions can be full time jobs with half the pay.

Do you like teaching music AND theater? You might consider a small town where they are looking for someone to teach music AND something else, both subjects half time. It’s not for everybody, but might be for you.

Focus your search and your goals. I interviewed at one school that wanted to expand their band program. The position called for teaching K-12 music and expanding the band program. I knew that I would not take the job as presented. It seemed destined for failure. So I presented the hiring committee with this proposal.

Let the music teacher focus on building the band while providing lesson plans for the K-4 teachers. I will train and provide lesson plans for K-4 teachers to teach music, I will teach the kids recorder in grade 5, and in grade 6-8 they would all have to be in choir or band, which I would also teach. The committee rejected this plan. Fifteen years later, that school district still struggles with teachers leaving and no real band program.

Don’t be afraid of teaching guitar! I did that. I thought I would eventually want to get rid of it. Instead I expanded it and taught that for thirteen years. Some students – after taking beginning guitar – want to learn a band instrument, orchestra instrument, or want to take choir. As you can see, that does not detract from band and choir, it adds to it! Those students would have remained uninvolved with music.

Two Guys And An Instrument

I have two friends who almost didn’t make it into music. One was 18 years old when he decided to learn the saxophone. He toured for several years with a group throughout the country. He never learned to read music until about ten years ago, and even now only reads a little bit (he’s over 70 and still performs regularly). He’s got great ears!

Another friend joined the Army during the Vietnam War. To join the band, you have to pass an audition. With recruiters getting people in left and right during the war, somehow Wayne got sent to the army school of music, despite not knowing how to play an instrument. The authorities put him on hold until they could get the paperwork straightened out. While waiting, he asked if he could borrow an instrument and start practicing. When they decided to get more serious about sending him to another school, he asked if he could just remain at the School of Music. They agreed IF he could pass the audition. He did, and spent many years in the Army band. He has since retired and is now a dedicated music teacher.

You never know where life will take you!

***This story first appeared in The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and tips from my 30+ years in music. Get a free copy by signing up on my list here:

Just Say No!


Remember Nancy Reagan’s theme from the 1980s to Just Say No to drugs? She was made fun of, but it is an effective strategy. You may not struggle with drugs, but I bet you do struggle with saying no!

Many people miss out on the great things in life because they are doing so many good things. They are not in tune with what the Creator has made them to do. I have been guilty of this many times. Sometimes it’s a matter of learning how to say “No” to all those good things. Believe me, it’s not easy…

People want to put you on a guilt trip when you say no. My own mom has a master’s degree in the guilt trip. She’s a cruise director! My sister and I toured the world several times, and it didn’t cost us a thing (except for damage to our psyche, but that’s such a small price to pay for travel).

Don’t let others put you on these kinds of trips! Decide in advance what’s important to you and stick to that. Will life circumstances and what’s important change over time? Of course it will.

Practice with me for a moment… “No.” Try it again… “No.” Several times now, louder each time… “no…No…NO!”

It feels good, doesn’t it! This is not a rebellious “No” like a toddler might say. Remember, this is a no so you can say yes. Repeat daily.

Say NO so you can say YES

Say NO to overtime so you can say YES to your family

Say NO to overeating so you can say YES to a better quality life

Say NO to going out to eat so you can say YES to your retirement account

Here are some real NOs I have said…

I said NO to helping in the school musical so I could say YES to conducting a community orchestra.

I said NO to playing at coffee houses so I could say YES to spending time at home.

I say NO everyday to the candy bars so I can say YES to size 32 pants.

I said NO to teaching lessons so I can say YES to writing and practicing music.

I said NO to the snooze button so I could say YES to reading my Bible.

I said NO to Starbucks so I could say YES to a cruise with my honey.

Say NO today so you can say YES!

*** James Divine is a middle school teacher and youth speaker. This article first appeared in The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and tips from my 30+ years in music. Get a free copy when you subscribe below:

James Divine – Youth Speaker

Abusive Father
Sexual Abuse

I’ve lived through all of these. I had to overcome them as I realized that I could have a better future than what my life had dictated.

In the past 20+ years, I’ve shared this message with tens of thousands of people to help them overcome their past and move to their best future. You can count on me to be humorous, interactive, and an engaging speaker, full of insights and stories that inspire.

I have been teaching middle and high school students for more than 20 years. I know their struggles. Their pains. Their insecurities. I was exactly like them. I suffered from “I Can’t” syndrome, but finally found the process to break free. I wish it was just a little magic pill, but it’s not. It’s a process. I’ve helped hundreds on their own journey.

Now I’m a veteran, husband, dad, teacher, musician, author, and grandad! Contact me today and let’s discuss your needs.

Graduation Speech


Welcome: Professor Jimmy

Invocation: Jimmy D-Light

National Anthem: James Divine

Commencement Address: Papa Jimmy


Professor Jimmy – Professor Jimmy teaches music at Southern Colorado University of Music (SCUM). His courses include: Concert Banned (a history of people who were kicked out of their middle school band), OrcaStra (an eight piece ensemble which uses sampled sounds of the great Orca whale to perform their own arrangements of the classic literature), and Music Depreciation (a study in how quickly instruments devalue over time and how many jazz musicians – although seeming quite poor – would be millionaires if they sold all their equipment).

Jimmy D-Light – Jimmy D is a rap musician. He currently resides in Seahaven with his wife and kids. Jimmy D collaborates often with Truman, who is also from Seahaven. D once was living a not very good life. He attributes part of this to being separated at birth from his identical triplets and growing up in foster homes. He has reconnected with his brothers and reignited his relationship with Jesus Christ.

James Divine – James teaches middle school band and orchestra. He also married his HS sweetheart. They have four beautiful kids and six grandkids. They enjoy long hikes and spending time together. James is also a public speaker – mostly to youth organizations and schools. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net.

Papa Jimmy – Papa Jimmy was born in Naples, Italy approximately 1926. He was born at home – so there is no birth certificate. He is hoping that since he can’t find it, that maybe one day he can run for President of the United States. He enjoys spending time with his wife, eating and making meatballs, and taking naps.