Former Students Paying Tribute to Late Jim Stellmaker

By KBJR News 1

May 5, 2011 Updated May 5, 2011 at 9:54 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- "You knew he was the band director, but he was like a friend, like a good person that was in your corner," 1975 Duluth Central graduate Michael Baker said.

He was Jim Stellmaker, a 23-year staple of the music department at Duluth Central.

"Dad's relationship with his students was so much more than just teacher-student," his son, Mike Stellmaker, said with a smile. "It didn't matter whether you were first-chair, last-chair, good, or bad. It didn't matter. You were so important to him."

Sadly, Jim passed away about a year ago, but not before impacting hundreds of young lives, including that of drummer Michael Baker, who went on to play nearly two decades with Whitney Houston.

"He kind of always gave me the freedom to be who I was as a musician," Baker said.

Now, dozens of Stellmaker's former students are coming together for a Sunday night concert in tribute to their former mentor.

"It's just so humbling when someone says they want to pay tribute to your father," Mike said. "What son or daughter could be more proud of that?"

That pride worked both ways for Jim, who routinely asked only one thing of his students.

"He just wanted you to try your best," Mike said of his late father.

Sunday's tribute concert will feature the Duluth Central Jazz Ensemble, the North Shore Big Band, the Big Time Jazz Orchestra, and, of course, Michael Baker.

The event is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the Duluth Central auditorium.

Posted by Zach Schneider