by Jose Bustos

What A Wonderful World. 

On January 26, 2024, my wife, Zee and I were gifted with a resplendent invitation to Will James Middle School 8th Grade music class sessions conducted by Erin Grummett.  Delightful is saying it lightly. And, as one who is long on words, I find myself short for words that gives justice to this most gratifying and captivating performance by a most talented 8th grade music class.  A class most accomplished in band wind instruments and percussion.  A masterly rendition of songs we listened to, gives credence to the person responsible for these exceptional musicians, Erin Grummett, a gifted music instructor.  We witnessed a virtuoso conducting her class of 43 8th grade musicians. 

Mrs. Grummett’s class performed George Weiss and Bob Thiele’s composition of “What A Wonderful World,” with a touch that seemed as though all her musicians were recording it for the world to listen to, yet there was an audience of only two, my wife and myself.  That song was recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1967, and of course now has become what is called in the music entertainment world as a “standard.”  Another song they performed for us was “Get Back,” written by one of the world’s most prolific and popular song writing teams of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, (my guys), The Beatles.

Most heart wrenching though was a Military medley embracing all the uniformed services.  Knowing that I had spent many years in the Air Force and Army, Mrs. Grummett chose this medley.  As we are a military family, our daughter a sailor, and son a Marine — both Mrs. Bustos and myself poured forth with emotional, heart-felt tears, our gratitude overflowing.  

Erin Grummett received her initial music degree, Bachelor of Music Education at University of Montana at Missoula and then credentialed with her Masters in Conducting from the American Bands College at Southern Oregon University in 2009.  She and her husband, Bryan Grummett, complement each other in their professions, as both are music educators, and were both hired by the School District 2 on the same day in 1995.  Bryan Grummett teaches music at Lewis & Clark Middle School, and has actually taught at this school since 1995.  Erin will be approaching her 30th year with Billings Public Schools and her 15th year at Will James in April of this year.

I found Erin Grummett to be a fascinating individual, most pleasant and ever smiling, humble, yet so very talented. She is proficient in 12 different wind instruments, but favors and specializes with the saxophone, as that instrument was the one she first played in primary and junior high school and was “instrumental” in helping her fall in love with music and the aspiration to eventually teach music.  Her mother told her that she could play anything she wanted except for the drums and the oboe, thus her decision to choose the saxophone.

Erin Grummett is also gifted with the discernment of evaluating a student’s interest, i.e., the ability to tell if a student should be assigned to her class and, or most importantly, the ability to define which instrument may be most appropriate for a student, or is it really one that fits with that child’s personality? 

And now for the diamonds of Will James, the Music Class.  I interviewed Grace Waller, Isla Hardin, Allie Treese, Ava Prescott, Lincoln Pearson, Paige Loberg, Sloan Shulund and Wynstin Olson.  One of the first of things that kindled my interest in these most talented musicians, is the distinctive first names, they are so unique and simply attest to the exclusive, vogue culture of America.  These names I find, are students simply stating, “I am different, I am unique there is no other like me, see me, see my talent.”  Obviously when they were born, mom and dad knew this child would be gifted, outgoing and with a drive for their own future independence. 

Many of these students shared with me their visions for their lives after high school and college.  One of Erin’s students will be working with his very successful dad in the construction industry.  Another will pursue medicine.  Some of the other musicians simply want to attend college in a discipline they have not yet decided on.  All the students, these gifted musicians I interviewed, had additional current interests, such as helping out fellow classmates with life skills, library assistance, ballet, and a greenhouse environment class.  This latter was most interesting, as the students that attend this class learn about growing various types of produce and decorative flowers that are then marketed at a spring sale on May 11, 2024 at Ben Steele Middle School.

I asked each student what brought them to their love for music, and what keeps their interest in this God-given talent, and of course each had their own story to tell.  The one thing that they all seemed to share, is that they enjoy a cohesion they can’t find in any other class.  Each felt they play a small, but most significant part of their own classy school music “family.” Practicing (studying) their instrument is homework, it has to be done, but when in class playing any song, this environment for each student is their group unity, their individual reward.

We look whole heartedly towards attending one of their concerts.


You must be logged in to post a comment.