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His closing note

Middleton and Liberty Ridge elementary school band director Jim Baldrica will retire this week after having worked in District 833 for the past 40 years.

After 40 years of directing school bands, Middleton and Liberty Ridge band director Jim Baldrica will be playing his final note this week for District 833.

"Teaching has been my best friend for 40 years," said Baldrica, who retires at the end of the school year. "I like seeing students find the joy in showing you something they've learned."

A career as a band director wasn't always the career path for Baldrica; in fact, he tried to avoid it as much as he could.

"I kind of avoided that whole thing because my dad was a band director," he said. "I didn't want to be doing the family business, so to speak."

While studying at the University of Minnesota, Baldrica switched majors from science to English, but he always had music as his minor.

"There was some sort of emotional connection I felt listening to music and doing music," he said.

Baldrica has expertise with the saxophone, the piano, the flute and the trumpet. However, Baldrica can also play every band instrument minimally.

It was during his third year in college that Baldrica came to the realization that music was his calling.

"I got with a lot of people who just loved music and I realized that I do too," he said. "I liked doing music more than any of the other things I was pursuing, so I thought if I had to work at a job, I wanted to do something that would allow me to do that as much as I possibly can."

Baldrica said he eventually landed on teaching because it was a way for him to be able to do music every day, but still have a day job.

I knew I liked music, but didn't know if I would like teaching," he said. "But it worked for me and I never looked back.

Baldrica student-taught during college in District 833, which eventually became his home.

Baldrica said he was drawn to a career as an elementary band director --rather than a high school band director -- because he wouldn't have all of the extra commitments such as marching band, pep band, sporting events and parades.

"I felt like I would have more of my own life," he said.

Baldrica has worked at most of the schools within the district including: the now defunct Grove Elementary, Crestview, Woodbury, Royal Oaks, Middleton, Liberty Ridge, Bailey and Pullman elementary schools and Woodbury and Lake junior high schools.

Baldrica said he tried to switch schools every five years, however he has been at Middleton Elementary for the past 10 years.

"I liked moving because you kind of have to clean house and sort through everything," he said.

Baldrica said his favorite part of coming to school every day as a band director was being able to introduce students to music.

He said he enjoyed seeing the excitement when the students finally learn something.

"I like seeing the students get it," he said. "I do like when the whole band finally gets it and it becomes music."

Additionally, Baldrica said he likes helping students grow their appreciation of music.

"It has to start with the notes but then there's all of these nuances that go with it," he said.

Baldrica said he enjoyed coming to school every day and seeing the students.

"You would have to be a Grinch to come to school and be down-heartened or not have your spirits lifted," he said. "The students are so enthusiastic."

Baldrica said he made the decision to retire this year because his wife is retired, he was over retirement age and he wanted to try other things.

However, Baldrica said he hopes to continue volunteering with music in some capacity.

"I don't want to completely walk away from everything," he said. "It's too much a part of what makes me work.

"I like work, I like the structure and I like having a place to go, so I'm trying to make all those sorts of things work.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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