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:

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.

Education Reimagined

Education is in an upheaval. Teachers have been forced to learn how to teach online practically overnight. Parents were forced to suddenly become their child’s coach, teacher, and counselor. All this while we are at record unemployment rates, with many working from home while still supervising their kids.

What if we took advantage of this time to reimagine education? What if some of the changes that have occurred – the good, the positive, the different – were somehow able to be incorporated permanently?


I have been a teacher for 22 years. I’m currently at a Title I school, but have also taught at a suburban public high school and a private school. We have some serious dysfunction in our system at all levels! When I think about the times I have wanted to quit teaching, it has never been because of what happens within the four walls of my classroom. It has often been because of outside forces I was unable to change.

Standardized testing – The thought behind accountability is good, but in our current bureaucracy, high stakes tests are not the answer. Too much time is taken away from content learning to prepare for the test. On test days, the students are sitting for way too long, and the teachers are bored out of their minds. The results of the tests can often take six months or more to receive, making immediate change in our instruction next to impossible.

Lack of professional treatment – I am in a teaching position now where I receive a lot of professional respect, but that has not always been the case. About 10% of teachers should not be retained. Many educational leaders impose policies on the other 90% that are needed for those 10%. Our system needs change, mostly in the hiring and firing process, whic has often become politicized and weaponized. There are even some environments where the students seem to be in control.

Time spent (or wasted) – I once taught at a school where the principal constantly told us we were not doing enough…and this at a time when I was working 11-12 hours a day. I thought, “What more can I do.” I was just as guilty! 

When I taught marching band, we rehearsed for 2-3 hours every afternoon. Saturdays were filled with practice or competitions. Why? Is it possible to be too busy? Yes. A friend of mine who started teaching in the 70s told me that marching band competitions used to take place on Fridays. The students missed school to attend – notice I didn’t say they missed their education – the competitions were just as educational as math computations. Students were off on Saturday to spend time with their families or just hang out. 

The same thing happens in sports. It has become so competitive that teams often practice three hours or more a day, and often come in for an “optional” practice during school breaks. I know…I am the dad of several kids who participated in high school sports (junior high seems to be more reasonable in this).

Reimagine 101

No standardized Testing – Teachers are free to focus on helping their students learn and improve without worrying about teaching to the test. No more three day stretches where students sit on their butts all day. We would gain back 8-10 days of instruction.

Reasonable Practice Times – What if marching bands, sports teams, and other clubs limited their practices to one hour, competitions and games were held earlier, and most or all Saturday practices, meets, and games were eliminated in favor of doing these events late afternoon? What if students were able to be home for dinner?

No Homework – There was a time when homework made sense, and maybe for high school it still does, but where does the time for play, for creativity, for reading, for getting together with friends, for family – where does that time come from? You might say, “Well, if they’re not doing homework, they’re just going to be playing video games.” That might be true, but then it’s on their parents, not you or me.

Treat Teachers as Professionals – Hire well. Pay well. Get rid of the dead weight. Teachers, we are at fault in this too. (Now I’m about to get flogged by my fellow teachers). I don’t believe small class sizes are always the answer. Imagine with me for a moment before you throw that stone. I once had a class of 65 beginning guitar students. It worked because all the students were motivated to be there and wanted to improve. Did it take a lot of prep on my part? Yes, but it worked. 

Large classes can be difficult because of the dysfunction in our system. What if you had a class of 30 hard working, disciplined students who wanted to be there? What if the six who struggled worked with a teacher in a small class who was able to provide more individualized attention? What if instead of one teacher for every 15 students, we had one teacher and one aid for every 30 students? A well-trained and responsible aid can function almost as a second teacher! 

What if students who did not “get with the program” were invited not to return? When I taught at a private school, the school worked with students and gave them many chances to succeed, but if they did not get their act straight, they were let go.

Reimagine 401 

I’m about to be flogged and stoned again, but bear with me and realize this is all meant to make you THINK. Colorado spends about $10,000 on each student for education. We are one of the lowest in the country. Where does all that money go? A lot of it is wasted. Many districts become bloated at central admin with positions that often have little to do with education. Some of these positions are needed. Many are a result of the dysfunction in our system as school districts adopt a CYA, (cover your a**) approach.  

What if that money were available in voucher format? (Look into this – REALLY look into it – and you will find cases of vouchers working well). You could see scenarios like the following:

Licensed Homeschool Mom who teaches her own three kids and three of the neighborhood kids right in her own home. They take weekly field trips, every child works at his own pace, there is lots of time for play and exploration, and she is able to make 50k a year (60k from vouchers minus 10k for expenses). Perhaps both moms are trained teachers and they split the profit. It doesn’t seem like much, but when you realize you don’t have commuting, child care, and cleaning costs, it is more.

Reading Specialist who sets up her own academy to work with kids who struggle with reading. She limits her “school” to 16 kids and hires an aid who specializes in reading. She brings in 160k, pays her aid 40k, has expenses of 30k and nets 90k for herself. Student/Teacher Ratio is 8/1. Students end up excelling in reading.

James Divine’s Dream Music Academy In this school, I would have 100 musically oriented kids who are gifted and motivated in music. They would audition to be there. Mornings would be focused on band, choir, marching/jazz band, and theory classes. Afternoons would be focused on what we usually call core classes. The students would even learn to cook and would handle lunch preparation and clean up. There would be no after school rehearsals – all of it would happen during the school day. Students would also exercise every day. Here’s what my budget would look like:

100 students @ 10k each 1,000,000

5 teachers @ 100k each -500,000

1 admin exec @ 100k  -100,000

2 educational aides @ 50k each -100,000

building/insurance -100,000

Supplies, computers, books -100,000

Field trips/travel -100,000

Do you want to come work for me at 100K?

I have thought about and considered the ideas in this article for many years. It is doable. Every objection is due to dysfunction in our system. What about handicapped students? We already spend extra on those students. Perhaps someone could start an academy specifically dealing with the students’ handicaps. Perhaps an existing academy would incorporate the students and hire an additional aide if needed. I have believed in and practiced inclusion my entire career.

But James, what would happen to our current schools? Won’t they close down? Yes, some of them will. But most of them will adapt, innovate, and become better, shedding their thick layers of bureaucracy and becoming the focal points of their community.

James is a band and orchestra teacher at a Title I middle school in Colorado Springs. He is in his 22nd year of teaching and believes that is his calling. One of his life-long goals is to act his shoe size, not his age. He is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE.

I Thought I Was Going To Jail

The summers of 2010-2012 I was driving every week to Weatherford, Oklahoma to work on a master’s degree in music education. The trip took me through the Texas panhandle.

The panhandle gets its name because when you view Texas on a map, there’s a thin stretch of land in the northwest corner that – when combined with the rest of Texas looks like the handle to a big ol’ fryin’ pan, you know the kind I’m talking about. They weigh about 57 pounds and are made out of cast iron. When not used for cooking, they have alternate uses as doorstops and behavior modification for wayward husbands.

The panhandle is also flat. It’s so flat that you can see anthills in the distance rising out of the landscape. The road is so straight that I once set the cruise control, lashed the steering wheel into place and climbed into the backseat for a nap.

The thing about the panhandle is it seems that nobody lives there. Oh, you see the occasional cow, the occasional road kill, and vultures. Vultures everywhere, sometimes tearing into road kill that seems like it hasn’t even cooled down yet. You hope and pray that you don’t get a flat tire because you’ll be changing the tire with one hand while fending off vultures with the other.

Did I mention that it is also hot! With air conditioning on, it sometimes felt like the interior of the car only cooled to 85 degrees or so.

I was driving along the panhandle on my way to Oklahoma when I passed a state trooper on the side of the road. Now, it was sometimes tempting to speed along this stretch, especially since I was making this drive every week, but as I mentioned you could see for miles in any direction and I knew I wasn’t speeding at that moment.

The state trooper pulled in behind me. If he wasn’t a state trooper, he could have easily been accused of tailgating. There was no traffic in either direction! We were the only two cars on this four lane divided highway and he was tailgating me. I carefully checked to make sure I was on target for speed. I even racked my brain to try and remember if I had been speeding.

The trooper continued on my tail for 3-4 minutes.

Finally, much to my relief, he pulled out from behind me, scurried over to the left lane, and passed me very quickly. Relief! He was really beginning to make me nervous.

My relief was short-lived. He immediately pulled in front of me and slowed down rather abruptly, causing me to tailgate him. Now, I hate being too close to a car. Why did he pull in front of me like that? I was still worried about my speed and checked to make sure that it remained steady. I did not have cruise control in this vehicle. It was easy to end up with a lead foot, especially when I was tired.

After another minute passed, I was tired of tailgating the trooper, so I pulled over into the left lane, still being cautious about my speed. The trooper remained in the right lane, about two car lengths ahead of me. We continued on like this for 3-4 minutes. I was nervous the entire time. It just seemed odd to me that this trooper would remain so close when we were on this big expanse of highway.

Finally, the trooper slowed way down, but wait! He pulled in behind me in the left lane and turned on his blue flashing lights.

Great, not only am I being pulled over by a state trooper, but now I’m going to have to rescue him from the vultures too!

The state trooper sat in his car for a looong time behind me, a very long time, a very very very long time. My nervousness was reaching a peak and my air conditioning was working overtime trying to keep my car cool. Was the sweat dripping down my face from nervousness or heat, or a combination of both.

The trooper exited his vehicle and approached mine with both hands on his hips, with more swagger than a policeman in a Clint Eastwood movie. There were no witnesses out here in the panhandle. Was I going to be beaten? Were drugs going to be planted in my car? I thought for sure I was going to jail.

It seemed like everything was moving in slow motion. Maybe it was just the heat waves shimmering on the blacktop. The officer approached my car. The swagger had left his hips and risen to his voice.

“Ya know what I pulled you over for partner,” he drawled.

“No sir, I have no idea,” I answered.

“Ya was drivin’ in my blind spot back there. If I hadda needed to pull over to the lef’ lane, I mighta hit ya.”

“I’m sorry sir, I didn’t realize that,” I answered.

Here’s what I really wanted to say…

“You idiot. You were tailgating me, then you pulled in front of me causing me to tailgate you. I moved to the left so I wouldn’t be tailgating anymore. Why were you doing that when we have all this highway open?”

Fortunately I held my tongue and didn’t say anything. Remember, this was the panhandle and there were no witnesses. It was not my day to become vulture food. I can see the newspaper report now…

Colorado man found eaten by vultures on the side of the road in the Texas panhandle. The foreigner had no idea when he stopped to pee that he should have had a shotgun in one hand while taking care of business here in the panhandle. Outsiders beware! We don’t tolerate disrespect for the law in these parts.

The officer returned my paperwork and instructed me to have a good day.

Have a good day?

Have a good day?

For the rest of the summer, I drove about 5 miles under the limit through that entire section of my commute to college.

Maybe I’m being too rough on this trooper. With the exception of the occasional road kill and once every decade when a truck filled with cocaine was discovered, there wasn’t much happening in his part of the world. I drove this section of road twice a week for three summers, for a total of about 24 times. He drove it EVERY DAY!

He could have just stopped me, told me he was lonely and then we could have driven to the next small town and chatted over bad coffee and tasty tacos at the local diner. He could have shared about his dream to become a Texas Ranger and how he ended up in the Texas panhandle. I would have listened. I love Texas Rangers, especially Walker, Texas Ranger.

***James is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE.

The Day I Stole my Mom’s Identity

In 2016, my mom suffered a debilitating stroke. I was the one tasked with handling her affairs. I sold her condo, packed away many of her things and found a place where she would live after her rehab. It was a daunting and exhausting task!

Little tasks that should have been simple and easy to handle became complex because of how afraid people are. For example, I called to cancel my mom’s cable tv subscription. Here is how the conversation went…

CC=Cable company . ME=me, good-looking Italian boy

(20 minutes on hold)
CC: Hi, Always Broken cable company…how may I help?

ME: Hi, this is James Divine. I’m handling my mom’s affairs. She recently had a stroke, has moved out of her condo, and now I need to cancel her cable service.

CC: Can you please give me her name, last 20 addresses, as well as the date when she sacrificed her firstborn?

ME: Sure, here it is
(3,200 account numbers and birthdates later)

CC: I’m sorry, we will need to speak directly to her. You are not authorized on her account to make changes.

ME: I realize that, but she almost died and is in rehab. She’s not well enough to talk.
(at this point I’m starting to get frustrated….there are 100 more urgent things I need to get done for my mom)

CC: I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.

ME: Can I speak to your manager please?

CC: I’m sorry, we don’t have a manager. I’m located remotely on an ice cap near the south pole, in exile and forced to work a job I hate, but it pays the bills.

ME: Surely you have faced this situation before and have a procedure to deal with it.

CC: I’m sorry, I’m not able to help you with your request. Would you like to be transferred to our north pole office?

ME: No thanks. I’d rather eat a plate of raw maggots then listen to more on hold music.

CC: Would you like me to transfer you to our maggot department?

ME: I thought that’s who I was talking to.

I hung up the phone. I was really frustrated. Since I was also handling her bills, I thought “Maybe I just won’t pay the bill” but I knew in the long term that would end up hurting my mom. I decided to try a different approach…

(20 minutes on hold)
CC: Hi, Always Broken cable company…how may I help?

ME: Hi, I’d like to cancel my cable service.

CC: Can you please give me your name, last 20 addresses, as well as the date when you sacrificed each of your children?

ME: Sure, my name is Rita and the account info you need is 1846dhfdku467253745be759403934565h3nyru5u5rhfyuj4m4neuemtn5ueiuwju666

CC: Is this really Rita?

ME: Yes.

CC: Sorry you will be leaving us. Thank you. I have closed your account.

I didn’t disguise my voice or anything! It was so easy that it was a little scary. I think the reason it worked is that I had the secret number…  1846dhfdku467253745be759403934565h3nyru5u5rhfyuj4m4neuemtn5ueiuwju666

I don’t recommend stealing your mom’s identity, but drastic circumstance call for drastic measures. As soon as I post this article, I will be moving. I expect the FBI to knock down my door at any moment.

***James is a teacher, musician, speaker and author in Colorado Springs. He wrote the book A Stroke of Bad Luck: A Survival Guide for When Someone You Know has a Stroke. Purchase it immediately on amazon: You can reach him HERE.

It was recommended that we abort one of our kids

We received the news of all of our kids arrivals with joy and anticipation. Children are a gift from God.

With one of our children, the doctor was a little concerned with some things he saw on our required test results. We were told that there was a good chance the baby would be born with one or more physical handicaps. It was recommended that we abort.

My wife and I believe in the worth of every human – even those unborn. This was not an option we were willing to consider. It did cause great consternation on our part. How could we handle this? What were we to expect? Where could we go for help? We knew that our love for our child would go a long way. We prepared for the worst and prayed for the best.

Our third child was born in 1995 completely healthy and normal! He did have one tiny scar on his little tummy. We like to think that is where God performed surgery.

Tests are never 100% accurate. And even if they were, how can we be the ones to decide whether a child should live or die? That “recommended abortion” is now a grown man. I can’t imagine life without him. He has a purpose. He has a calling.

***James is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE.

I Was a 7th Grade Bully

Throughout my childhood, I was often picked on and bullied. I was somewhat of a momma’s boy. I was not close to my father. I had a high emotional IQ and cried easily…the men in my life pounded into me (sometimes literally) that men don’t cry.

One day in 7th grade things turned around…

Red headed Patrick – tall and mean and someone who had bullied me all school year – pursued me into the hallway of the apartment building where my family lived. As he grabbed me and tormented me with his words and shoves, something in me snapped. I was sick and tired of the years of unrelenting bullying. I was done with being picked on. I detested the feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach.

I grabbed Patrick’s shirt and shoved him forcefully against the wall.

Patrick’s demeanor changed…

“Whoa James…calm down…I was only joking, “ he proclaimed.

“Yeah, right. Only joking for the last SIX-MONTHS, “ is what I thought to myself.

I let Patrick go. He told everyone at school that I beat him up. I had never laid a fist on him (besides the shirt grabbing). Patrick’s actions caused me to have a revelation…I was a big guy…I had size to my advantage…I didn’t need to let bullies torment me anymore.

Unfortunately I became a bully. I felt powerful. I felt strong. I liked this feeling.

I chose Bill Gates as my first victim. It wasn’t the real Bill Gates, but imagine what a 7th grade Bill Gates might look like. Spectacles. Skinny. High water pants. Future billionaire. I don’t remember this poor guy’s name, but we’ll call him “Bill.”

Every time I saw Bill, I tormented him. I spoke harshly to him. I acted like I was going to hit him (but I never did). Most of the time he bolted as soon as he saw me.

After a few months of this, I felt terrible! This was not who I was! I was a kind person. I had been through a lot in my short life, but was that reason for me to bully? I remembered how much I hated it when I was picked on. Why was I doing the same thing to others? I decided to quit.

One day shortly after this I saw Bill at the bus stop. Bill took off as fast as his skinny legs allowed. I started running after him! He ran faster. I ran faster. He ran even faster. I ran even faster.

What a sight it must have been, especially when I called out to him…

“Wait, wait. I want to be your friend.”

Amazingly he stopped running! Poor Bill. What would you think if you were being chased by a bully now saying he wants to be your friend?

I apologized. He accepted.

From that moment forward, when someone attempted to take advantage of Bill, I was there by his side using my newly discovered size to help him. It was my penance.

I became a bully because I enjoyed that feeling of power, but using physical size over others is just plain wrong! I’m glad it was just a 3-month portion of my life. My bullying days were over.

And the Bill I bullied?…he’s probably making millions leading a tech company he founded.

***James is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE.

Get A First Down

In an interview of Lou Holtz – famous college football coach and analyst – he was asked what type of goals did he inspire his award winning teams to achieve. Was it to win the game? Score a certain number of touchdowns? Block passes?


Lou instructed his teams to “Get a first down.” If you can continue to get first downs, you will win the game! The first down is the smallest component of goal setting in football.

In our own lives, we need to “Get a first down.”

Want to write a book…write the first paragraph.

Music teachers need to…Get that first chord in tune.

Want to lose weight…Put that chocolate down.

Family time important…Schedule an evening just for family.

What can you do to “Get A First Down” today?

***James is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE.

The First (and only) Time I Picked up a Prostitute

The first (and only) time i picked up a prostitute

It was October of 2000, one of those rare, grey drizzly days we sometimes get in Colorado. I was on Nevada Avenue – the main drag through downtown Colorado Springs –  when I saw her. I pulled my van to the side of the road and picked her up.

Flashback to earlier that week…

It was my third year of teaching band at The Colorado Springs School. I had found my true calling as a teacher. Not only do I teach music, but I teach life. Emotional connections were made with students and their families. The mom of one of my students – I’ll call the student April – had passed away unexpectedly. Now April would be without a mom. Now April’s dad would be a widower. It was such a sad time for that family and the entire school community.

The viewing was on that cold drizzly day. At the viewing, we – faculty, students and other families from The Colorado Springs School – came together around April’s family like extended family. We were sharing stories about April, about her dad and about her mom. I could feel the presence of God strongly in the viewing room. I left and hopped in my van.

As I was heading down Nevada Ave., I saw a short, hunched over, dressed-in-rags woman in the drizzly rain. She wasn’t much to look at, maybe in her 30s but she had the look of someone who had a rough life and looked more to be in her 50s.  She had her thumb stuck out to hitchhike. I don’t usually pick up hitchhikers and don’t recommend it to you, but as I approached her, I distinctly felt God was telling me to pick her up.

It wasn’t an audible voice…

“James….pick this lady up.”

It was more of a voice within my spirit.

I obeyed the voice and stopped to pick her up. She told me she was headed to work and mentioned a location about two miles away. As we were headed there, we made some small talk. I asked her “Where do you work?” She hesitated, squirmed a little, and then answered, “I’m working the streets.”

By now, we were at her destination. I looked at her and said, “Honey, I think God has something better for you than that.” Tears began to flow down her face as she exited my van and shut the door. Tears streamed down my face as I realized that God had put me in that spot, that moment, that day to minister to a sheep that had strayed from the fold. God’s compassion on her flowed through me and my words to touch her spirit.

I wish I knew what happened to this lady. I wish I could say she left that life, went to college and became successful, helping others who had been through what she had, but that was the last time I saw her. I do know that I was supposed to pick her up and tell her God had something better for her. 

When you hear that small voice telling your spirit something, do what it says.

James Divine is a teacher, speaker, author, and musician. He is learning to hear that still, small voice more each day. This story was excerpted from The Saxophone Diaries: Stories and tips from my 30+ years in music. Get your copy at the store at www.jamesdivine.net or on amazon. ***James is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE

The 5 Band Directors You Meet In Heaven

When I first started teaching band in 1998, I was VERY isolated. I didn’t even know very many band directors in my local area. I was only part time, showing up on campus right before my 1st class and leaving right after my 2nd class…I had kids to pick up from daycare. Most of my music contacts were in the performance sector.

By 2000, my third year of teaching, I became full time. As I participated in events like solo and ensemble and all-city band, I got to know many of the directors. But my kids were still small. This was a time when I needed a mentor the most but when I had one the least.

In 2005, I moved to a suburban high school. In some ways it was like starting over. At the local events, it was a different group of directors. But they seemed to have one thing in common…they all seemed old to me (maybe older is a better word).

Fast forward to now…

When I look around at band director gatherings now, I am one of the oldest. How did I get here? Are people looking up to me like I looked up to others? I’m just realizing how little I know!

I have the opportunity to mentor and encourage others now. One of the ways I do that is through my podcast for music teachers.  As I reflect on 5 decades of life and over two decades in teaching – I fondly recall some of my greatest mentors and what made them great.

The 5 Band Directors You Meet In Heaven

 Ed Cannava

 I first had the chance to meet Ed in 2000 at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, where he brought his Dry Creek Dixie Dawgs to perform. I was performing with the Rough Riders Dixieland Band. We did a few selections with Ed’s group and was able to mentor and encourage them. At the same time I found a teaching colleague who became a mentor and a friend.

I was immediately impressed with Ed, first with the quality of his student performing groups and then with Ed the person. He is humble, works hard and willing to give a listening ear to a young director needing advice. Even now, every time I speak with Ed, I walk away feeling like I’m a better teacher and person. Ed offers advice and encouragement, and he does it in a way that doesn’t allow you to rest on past accomplishments. One must always strive to the next level.

The great thing about Ed is that he realizes it’s a journey. Every band program is different, and although sometimes he has disagreed, he has been able to see why I might do things differently. We share an Italian heritage and a love for emotional – not just technical – conducting. The best conductors I know are at least part Italian.

During trying times at school, Ed offered a ton of encouragement. It helped me make the decision to stay. Longevity is a huge factor in developing a great program. Although it’s not the only factor, it is one we often miss the importance of. Ed had been at his school for over 20 years. Although he is retired, he is still active in many areas of music.

Dale Crockett

 I have only gotten to know Dale in the last 8 years or so, and more closely in the last 3-4, but I remember hearing his name as early as 1993, when I was still in the Army band at Fort Carson.

Dale is the most down to earth, humble person I know. Sometimes at local music meetings, you can see someone’s ego attached to their shoulder, like a little elf. Why would someone want to carry that dead weight around all the time? Dale carries no such weight. He stands tall – literally – and you can see he is proud of his students and proud of his work, but it’s the pride in a job well done, not due to ego.

Although Dale is “retired”, he still works “half-time” at a 5A school where he is the only band teacher. I would venture to say that it’s a full time job with half time pay, especially during marching season. It’s obvious when talking to Dale that he loves his students and that he loves his fellow directors. He is always willing to take time for a cup of coffee to talk shop or just talk about life. Did you know Dale has been a pastor at various times in his life? Ask him about it, and about his faith.

Joe Brice

 Many of you know him as the guy who heads up the Regional Concert Band Festival in Colorado. The festival is always well organized and smooth running with great clinicians and adjudicators. This is because Joe takes pride in his work. His wife Carol is often with him at music events. She is like a mom to so many of us. She does a lot of the behind the scenes work too. She greets everyone with a hug. This is more important than you might realize.

I got to know Joe through a mentorship program that one of the music programs in our state was offering…free mentors to come and work with your band. Did I mention they were free? Many directors do not take the organization up on this offer.

Joe was at my school for a clinic. He mentioned the fact that I did not have a tuba player in that particular group. I replied with “I just don’t have anyone playing tuba.” He wouldn’t let me fall back on that. He said, “Have you asked anyone?” I admitted that I hadn’t. The next week in class I asked for volunteers who were interested in learning tuba. I immediately got several people who wanted to try. This has also worked in my current middle school!

An interesting bit of trivia… Joe was Ed’s mentor, who became my mentor. I in turn am mentoring people too. What you do today has an effect for many generations!

Orlando Otis

 You’ll never meet someone as hard working and dedicated as Orlando, yet he is down to earth, friendly and humble. Orlando has achieved success in his program, yet he still finds time to give a word of encouragement and support to those who need it. He also puts on a terrific jazz and marching festival. His booster parents know how to take care of directors.

Orlando and I are in a competition for best-looking band director and band that has the most fun. I definitely have him beat on the former, but he is a very close second on the latter.

When I was a “new” band director, new to high school but I really had been teaching for 7 years and was approaching age 40, I brought my jazz band to his festival. My drummer didn’t make it to the bus that morning. This drummer was hot (I’m lying, he just thought he was hot). Orlando’s son filled in for us and did 3x better than our regular drummer. It was an eye opener for the jazz band. They could see where the band could go if we had a great drummer instead of just one who was ok. That drummer didn’t last to the next semester, but the memories of the jazz band did.

Jess Girardi

 Anyone who has taught in Colorado for any length of time knows Jess Girardi. He retired from Englewood HS, where he had a very successful program. Jess has remained active well into retirement encouraging young directors and teaching adjudication sessions. If you sit down with him in conversation for 10 minutes, you feel like you walk away with an encyclopedia’s worth of information. He’s smart, likable, friendly, and lends a listening ear, plus he’s Italian.

Jess has a quiet faith that is important to him. I believe it guides him and makes him the person he is. There is no guile in Jess. What you see is what you get.

Hosea Haynes

 When Hosea finally “retired”, he had 40+ years teaching experience. The only reason he retired is that he found out at a retirement workshop that he was working for just 10% of his pay (with retirement he earned almost 90% of his salary). He retired, but continued to substitute the maximum number of days he was allowed to and also worked for Meeker Music. He earned more in retirement than he did working full time.

Hosea became a mentor and then a friend. I had been teaching for 6 years at a private school. I had no teaching license. I began a program that allowed me to earn my license. I needed to find a band teacher with a master’s degree who would mentor me. Ken at Meeker Music suggested Hosea, and that started our friendship.

Hosea met with me for more than the required amounts of time mandated by the college. I know he wasn’t paid much, but he didn’t do it for the money anyway. When the year through the college was over, we continued to meet regularly. Hosea always had advice and encouragement for me. He always had a positive attitude. Illness took him from this earth much too soon, so that’s why he is number 6 on this list of 5 directors. Hosea has already preceded us to heaven and is conducting the community band that will welcome the rest of us.

No out of tune players

Instruments work perfectly all the time

Reeds never squeak

Valves never break

There are no poor attitudes

Tuba players move in all the time

I’m looking forward to sitting in the sax section (wait, are there saxes in heaven).

Find a mentor TODAY!

***James is a band and orchestra teacher at a Title 1 middle school.  He is the author of Forgive: One man’s story of being molested, and 40 Ways to Make Money as a Musician. He hosts The Music Ed Podcast. James also is a motivational youth speaker sharing a message of “Your Past Doesn’t Define Your Future.”  ***James is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE.

Get Started Writing a Book

Go to Udemy to enroll in the course. Udemy offers a 30 day money back guarantee.

I think that EVERYONE has a book inside of them, but maybe they just don’t know how to get started writing it. In this course, I teach you the steps I used to create my own six books. You won’t become a millionaire, but you can get your message out there and sell hundreds of books (if you are persistent). I cover…
– brainstorming and organizing your ideas
– getting started writing
– setting goals and deadlines for yourself
– editing/revising
– self-publishing to kindle
– selling and promoting your book

Go to Udemy to enroll in the course. Udemy offers a 30 day money back guarantee.

***James is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE

7 Ways Christians Can Serve During the Coronavirus

Christians have been the people who have stepped in to serve with the love of Christ in many disasters in the past, and the coronavirus is no different. But what can we do? Here are seven ideas to help you think of ways you can serve.

1. Pray

We are told in the Bible to “pray without ceasing.” What does this mean? Should it feel like someone is interrupting our time with God whenever they speak to us? I don’t think so. But we can take time to pray and reflect regularly throughout the day. Ask God for worldwide healing in the name of Jesus. When you hear an ambulance, say a quick prayer, either silent or out loud. And when someone shares a need with you – rather than say “I’ll pray about that,” and then forget like I do, ask them if it’s ok to pray for them right then and there.

2. Share

Hoarding is never encouraged in the Bible. We are told often to share. In Luke 3:11 it says, ​”Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” When you see a need – if you have the means to fill it, do so. I remember the panic that set in with some people prior to Y2K. There were people who were buying guns and a one year supply of food for their family. What were they going to do? Shoot people who needed food? I hope not. Just like God fed His people in the wilderness with manna, He could do the same for us today.

3. Care

Maybe it’s not food that people need, but someone to pick up their medicine, or a babysitter, or a place to live. I’m fortunate in that my income as a teacher has not stopped during this difficult time. The families of my students mostly work in the service and construction industries. I feel for them. I don’t know how this is going to affect them. I pray and weep for them, and as I am able I’ll care for them. There are MANY industries and small businesses that will suffer during this time. Care for those people.

4. Improvise

God has called me to be a teacher. With about 12 hours notice, that role changed dramatically, and who knows how long it will be like this. But that doesn’t mean I’m no longer a teacher. I am using this time to write articles, create online courses, and to learn how to be a better teacher. Think creatively about how you can use the extra time you have.

One lady I know is really taking her new role as a home-schooling mom seriously. She has her kids working on their assignments and is taking them on hikes for their PE classes. Maybe she will find out she really enjoys teaching and want to pursue it more!

If you find yourself with extra time, think of how you can use the gifts you have to serve others. Maybe you are great at cooking cheap meals. Post some videos showing others how to do it.

5. Fear Not

Perfect love drives out fear. The reality is that none of us is guaranteed another minute. We don’t know when our life will end. We don’t know when we might lose a job – or a house – or a fortune. We can do our best to prevent these things, but we must continually put our trust in God our Provider.

When my four kids were little, we often took road trips from Colorado to Virginia to visit our families. To save money, we packed sandwiches, water, and snacks (and probably tissue and toilet paper too). Although sometimes a child worried about their special toy making it onto our caravan, not once were my kids worried about whether there would be enough food. They knew and trusted Mom and Dad would take care of that. We have a Daddy who loves His kids even more than I love mine.

6. Be Ready with an Answer

Not an answer to why the coronavirus happened, but an answer to “How do you keep so calm in the face of this pandemic?” The answer is “peace that passes understanding” that comes from faith and trust in Jesus. This is why #5 is so important. When others are hoarding and you are sharing, people may ask what makes you different. Why do you care when others don’t?

Make sure this sharing comes naturally and is not forced. Nobody likes to have faith thrown upon them like a multi-level marketing spiel. Let the Holy Spirit do His work.

7. Don’t demonize

It can be so easy to blame what is happening on sin in the world. Truth be told, we are ALL guilty of sin. If I am ever standing near someone who prays, “God, give me what I deserve,” I am going to RUN! We all deserve judgment for what we have done, but to read judgment into every bad thing that happens is a dangerous line to tread (but one that is “normal” for humans). In Jesus’ day, handicaps and disasters were often looked at as some type of judgment from God. Upon seeing a blind man, Jesus’ disciples asked Him who had sinned – the man or his parents – to cause him to be blind. Jesus answered neither. The man was born blind so God’s healing power could be displayed.

James Divine is a full time music teacher and part-time pastor. He believes we are all called into full time ministry, some within the walls of the church, others in business and government. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife of 33 years. They have four grown children and 6 grandchildren. He can be found spending time with his wife wiping down the world with wipes, hiking, biking, and SUPing (just kidding about the first one). Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net.

***James is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE

A Love Letter to my Fellow Title I Teachers

Dear Fellow Title I Teacher:

Don’t compare yourself to other teachers. You are amazing. You work hard. Even if they don’t tell you, your students appreciate and love you! You may be one of the few stable things in their life! When you look at where your students are “on the charts”, often they fall behind their peers from better funded schools with intact families. But when you look at how far they have come, you can be proud because you helped them get there.

Most of my fellow teachers don’t know what it’s like to have a student SUDDENLY not be in your class anymore – with no warning or pre-planning. When you try to call or email – maybe to get an instrument back or just ask how they are –  you find everything has been disconnected. You know what it’s like!

Most of my fellow teachers don’t know what it’s like to have the $20 yearly instrument fee seem impossible for some parents to pay. Many struggle with just paying the rent and buying food. You know what it’s like – and I bet you spend some of your own money just on the supplies you need to teach!

Most of my fellow teachers don’t know what it’s like to have a student share their “good news”. And what is the good news? My uncle’s prison sentence was reduced from 5 years to 3 years. Although you would never ask it yourself, a student inevitably asks “what is your uncle in prison for?” The answer is armed robbery. You know what it’s like.

Most of my fellow teachers have never had a former student murdered in a gang fight on the school’s track over the summer. Most don’t know the heart-wrenching torment of examining oneself and thinking – sometimes out loud sometimes to themselves – “could I have done more for that student when he was in my class four years ago.” Self-reflection is good, but you probably did all you could. You know what it’s like.

Stop comparing yourself to the suburban teacher where the families are all making a decent income and are able to support what their students are doing. You DO make a difference. Love the students under your care. Make sure you take time for yourself. The emotional stress can sap the life out of you. Decide what time you are leaving school each day and follow through with that. Have a hobby. Read a book. Exercise. Eat well. We need you to be around for a long time!

With Love and Respect,
James Divine

* James is in his 22nd year of teaching band and orchestra. He has taught at an exclusive private school, a suburban high school, and now teaches at a Title I school in Colorado Springs. James’ single mom was on welfare and food stamps for part of his growing up years. For about a year the family was also homeless (by today’s definition). Even though they weren’t called that at the time, James attended several Title I schools in the 1970s and early 1980s. James believes that the teachers he had SAVED HIS LIFE. He understands where his current students are coming from. James hosts The Music Ed Podcast, which you can find on iTunes or at www.jamesdivine.net.   ***James is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE

All Dogs Go To Heaven

Guest Post by a Dog who is a friend of mine. He prefers to stay anonymous.

Man’s Best Friend. Faithful. Loyal. These are just some of the ways dogs have been described.

Not many dogs have undertaken the task of writing about life. It’s important for you – the human – to understand what it is we see in life as dogs. Dogs were designed by God to be special, to be a companion, to love without condition. He also created some of our weirder quirks, like eating our own poop and drinking out of the toilet bowl. Each gift we have also has a drawback, but these things are all meant to teach you, the observant human, how to become better and how to find your place in heaven.

All dogs go to heaven.

Well almost all. There are a few that have either become pure evil or had it bred into them by evil humans. These are the dogs that attack children, that strain against their thick chains to try and kill, and that kill for no reason except for their desire to do so. This constitutes less than 1% of all dogs. Don’t hold this against the other 99%.

The rest of us go to heaven, but it’s not the same as it is for humans. You see, not all humans go to heaven. Oh, there are a lot of them that are “good” but they are judged on a different level than we dogs.

Humans can go to redemptive heaven. If they choose not to go, well they go to another place that I don’t want to even think of. This is the same place a large percentage of cats go to. Cats can’t help it. They were born with a very selfish personality (but not all cats go there).

I wish this wasn’t so. I wish everyone was a dog and could go to dog heaven, but that would mean you would be born without a soul. Having a soul and a choice whether to go to heaven is best in the long run.

You’ll notice dogs don’t hold it against each other if we are different breeds. Some of us are black, some white. Some are big, some are small. Some are handsome while some are downright ugly (but these seem to be the most popular at times). Some stink more than others, and some are stuffy and dignified. It doesn’t matter to us. When we meet, we greet each other with our own “handshake,” (you’ve seen this…we approach each other cautiously and get a good whiff of the other’s butt. It may not always seem like it, but hygiene is very important to us). We can tell a lot about a dog or a person within the first two minutes of meeting them, and we won’t fake it if we don’t like you!

John Wayne had some dog in him. I was watching a John Wayne movie when the following interchange took place.

Cowboy: We’ve been corralling cattle together for ten years, and during that time you’ve hardly spoken to me. 

John Wayne: Yup.

Cowboy: Why is that? Did I do something wrong to you?

John Wayne: Nope. I just don’t like you.

He had nothing to hide. That’s the way we dogs are. We can usually tell the people who are liars and cheats and we just don’t like them.

Having been born without the benefit of an opposable thumb, typing is very difficult for me. I’d like to thank James for transcribing my thoughts and ideas onto the written page.


You humans have it easy. All day long you get to make choices about how you use your time, yet I see so many humans waste time. You all get the same 168 hours in a week (dogs have 168×7 hours in a week, but each hour is shorter…it does make it a little easier to manage our time). Choose wisely how you will spend that time.

My owner thinks I have a lot of energy in the morning. He seems to need coffee to get going. What is really happening is that I woke up two hours before him needing to pee and I have been patiently waiting for him to let me out to do my thing. Meanwhile, he is moving at a sloth’s pace getting his coffee ready when I just NEED TO PEE. This happens every morning! Here’s our typical exchange.

Me: Woof! Woof!

Owner: Hey boy. You sure have a lot of energy for it being so early in the morning.

Me: Woof!

Owner: I wish I had that energy. I gotta let this coffee take effect before I can get anything done.

Me: Woof woof woof!

Owner: Yeah boy, I’m excited for the day also.


Owner; Oh you need to go outside. Sorry about that.

Me: Woof

There are little nuances in those woofs. If you could tell what we were saying, you would realize that this is the actual conversation.

Me: Good morning. Gotta pee!

Owner: Hey boy. You sure have a lot of energy for it being so early in the morning.

Me: Just open the door!

Owner: I wish I had that energy. I gotta let this coffee take effect before I can get anything done.

Me: Forget the coffee, open the door, I’ve gotta pee.

Owner: Yeah boy, I’m excited for the day also.


Owner; Oh you need to go outside. Sorry about that.

Me: Thank you.

This is why we are known as man’s best friend. Your actual friend would kill you if you did this to him. We take our pee break and then come in and show you gratitude. Those of you with a doggie door, God bless you.


  • Stinky people
  • Stale food and water (we’re grateful to have it)
  • Bad breath
  • Race, gender, nationality, religion (we love everyone as long as they are truthful and kind to us)
  • Long car rides (anytime we get outside is a joy)
  • People petting us
  • Exercise
  • The length of time our owners are gone
  • Messy rooms (filth is another matter)
  • Other pets (as long as they give us space)
  • Table scraps


  • Cats
  • Abuse
  • Dishonest people
  • Soap and water when mixed together (we love water and for some reason we love to eat things like soap). I know men feel the same way. When you’re hanging out with your significant other at Bath and Body Works, and you take a whiff of the “Mango, tropical, peach drenched sunrise dew” body gel, you KNOW you want to take a sip and drink it down, especially after smelling it)
  • Dog carriers
  • Postmen (they’re messing with our property which we have been called to protect)
  • People not petting us
  • Grooming (there are a few exceptions)


Do you know what I think the coolest invention is in the house? The flush toilet. With one simple push of a button, the yellow, stinky urine and brown, disgusting fecal matter are instantly swept away and a nice bowl of cool, fresh water arrives in its place to fulfill the parched sensation on my dry lips. Someone needs to invent one for dogs.

We would be happy to use the same one as you, but if you haven’t noticed, our bodies are shaped differently. It is almost physically impossible for me to sit properly on a human toilet, at least not without needing chiropractic treatment.

Many owners take us on long walks where we can find a spot that hasn’t been pooped on to do our thing. The most conscientious owners pick up the poop afterwards and dispose of it (but not usually in the cool flushing mechanism). These walks are enjoyable and allow us to spend quality time with our owner.

Some owners put up fences in their backyards and let us out to poop in those. This is very convenient. However, we are always trying to find a clear spot. When an owner doesn’t clean up the mess, we find ourselves spreading little snapshots all over the yard to try and avoid going in the same place twice. If it has been several weeks, this becomes increasingly difficult. Please be kind…pick up what we leave behind.

And be more like a Dog.

***James’ owner is the author of 5 books, including I Cannoli Imagine: My Italian Life. You can reach him HERE.

Put Some SPICE in Your Life in 2020

Papa Jimmy shares the importance of having SPICE in your life. In 2020, focus on including these things in your life…

S – Spiritual
P – Physical
I – Intellectual
C – Creative
E – Emotional

***James is a Title 1 middle school teacher and author of Forgive: One man’s story of being molested…and God’s redemption in which he shares how important teachers were to his life. He is also available to share to groups of teachers his story and why they are important. Reach him here. 

Be Authentically U

Get Tickets Here


Throughout this event, the speakers will provoke our minds with questions and fill our notebooks with ideas of how Authenticity can help you be more authentic in YOUR life! If you want to take your life to the next level, here’s how!

Many people fail to show their true journey. They show us images and quotes of inspiration. They share when things are great not when things are real. The reality is… there is no reality. Not everyone succeeds. One huge take away I have learned this year when my cancer came back is that authenticity is not just about being real, it is about vulnerability. Sharing and showing what REALLY happens behind closed doors. I believe this knowledge could help people who attend to see the light of this world and by learning how to truly be authentic in life they would have more followers, clients, and supporters.

Tentative Agena for other speakers

10-10:30 Opening Remarks by Trixie

10:15-10:30 Comedienne Dia Kline

10:30 to 11:00- Mythica VonGriffyn- Self-esteem and Body-image, the foundation for everything

11:00 to 11:30- Jennifer Lonnberg- 5 steps to Embodied grace

12:00-12:55 Keynote Speaker James Divine “Growing Up Italian”

1:00-1:30- Stephen Glitzer -Uncovering One’s Spiritual Truth

1:30 -2:00- Ann Kaemingk -The First Five Things

3:00-3:30- Jason Kendrick- Understand to be Understood, Honor their truth and yours

3:30-3:45 BIO BREAK

4:00-4:30- Gregory William’s- Transform Your Thinking, Reform Your Success

4:30-5- Final remarks, Q&A, and audience comments and thoughts on the event.

5 pm-close of the event! Trixie’s final words of thank you

Topics are on VulnerabilityRealnessRawness, or Authenticity.

Get Tickets Here

I Was Interviewed by The Cannoli Coach

Listen to “The Cannoli Coach: I Cannoli Imagine—My Italian Life! w/James Divine | Episode 040” on Spreaker.

Listen as I speak with James Divine, an author, musician, teacher, speaker, and PROUD Italian. Talk about a guest meant to be on The Cannoli Coach podcast! The title for this episode is the title of his forthcoming book!

James uses his humor to share stories of forgiveness, encouragement, and inspiration. He talks about the impact of music in his life and how it was a catalyst to build his self-esteem. And, he candidly shares about an “event” in his early years that God used to shape him into the Father and Grandfather he is today.

We discuss forgiveness and we reminisce about growing up Italian and talk about the Italian meatball competition in heaven—he even shares the secret to the best meatballs!

James Divine’s Year In Review

EVERY year holds the excitement of new beginnings, unchartered waters and high expectations, and every year ends with beautiful memories we carry with us as well as experiences that may have hurt us (but that ultimately make us better). I am a BLESSED man. Enjoy this year in review.

I often start the year with some sort of physical activity, and 2018 was no exception. THE INCLINE! This depends upon the weather of course. It may not happen for 2019 as snow is swirling as I write. I sometimes forget to be thankful that God has blessed me with a healthy body. I’ll take on any young punk anytime, physically or mentally, but I don’t know if it would be fair mentally as I see you have come half-armed.

No matter what we do for a living, we can sometimes wonder “Does what I do matter?” YES! YES! If you are doing what God has called you to do, it matters. Teaching is a profession like that. It’s always great to visit with former students and see how God is using them. B.D. is one of the nicest, sweetest people I know. Great parenting? Probably. Someone who serves the Lord with all her heart? Definitely.

I was honored to be selected to present at Tri-M day at The Colorado Music Educator’s Association Conference in January. I brought my band. The topic was “The Student Led Rehearsal.” The clinic was well received by 500+ teen attendees.

Whenever the weather cooperated, my sweetie and I took the opportunity to enjoy God’s creation in this beautiful state we get to call home.

I got to share a hilarious story “growing Up Italian” at a local speaking event. Some told me I may have a future in stand-up comedy. I’ll remain seated while waiting to see if that will happen (but it was funny).

I performed more in 2018 than in the previous six years combined. It has been a blessing to get quite a bit of my free time back to be able to do this. I hope the performing will continue. Sadly I am not able to continue with Swing Factory due to other commitments.

Susan and I enjoyed discovering many hot springs across the state during a stressful time this past spring.

I was able to take a road trip and see the American Jazz Museum in KC for the first time. Definitely worth it and something I hope to do again.

Susan and I got to visit our grandkids over spring break. At the time of this picture we had three grandkids, but that number has doubled since then!

Michelle Mras interviewed me for her show, Conversations with Michelle.

I visited my favorite Aunt in Fairfax. Hoping to make many more trips out there in 2019.

I got to meet a niece of mine who I had never met. Susan and I spent a weekend in Naples, Florida visiting with her family.

And biking…

And having a few SMALL laughs along the way

Susan and I picked up a new hobby…SUP – Stand Up Paddle-boarding

I recorded a song for which Austin did the artwork. I don’t think it will sell much, but I needed to do this one for me (Kenny Rogers, it’s available if you’d like to record it).

For the second time in six months, we were able to return to Germany, this time mainly to see our newest grandchild, but we were still able to do some touring too.

Then on to the ASBDA conference in Va. Beach (and a tour of my old haunting grounds, the Army “School of Music”, or as we sometimes called it, The Pool of Mucus, and an opportunity to visit our parents there. By the way, they own a cruise business and would love to show you a great vacation at www.shiptrip.com.

Devil’s Tower Monument

A visit from our German family!

A new school – teaching orchestra, 10% more pay, 30% reduced hours (the hours teaching marching band were killing me)

Another visit with the grandkids!

Headlining at a historic theater.

More hiking!

A train ride we have been dreaming about for 20 years!

Camping with my favorite youngest son

And Christmas surrounded by family. They are the BEST gift, besides the greatest gift of Jesus Christ.

I am one blessed man. There were some trials in 2018, but I choose to focus on the many things that made 2018 beautiful Keep your eyes on…