My name is Jim Smith, and I consider myself an apostle of great music. Whether I’m walking, driving, reading, writing, or doing yard work, I’m probably listening to music. From Antonio Vivaldi to Miles Davis, from the Beatles to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, I’ll listen to nearly anything, and I enjoy most everything I hear.
I studied music as an undergraduate, but that was a long time ago, and I am no longer a musician. Having left the practice room behind, I’ve become a dedicated and devoted consumer of great music. I’m no longer the musician on stage. I’m now the guy sitting in the audience or creating playlists for my iPod.
And I’m the best audience member a musician would ever want because I find such great joy in hearing what musicians create. Some people golf, fish, or collect stamps. I spend my time searching for the next piece of music that will make me want to dance, smile, or shed a tear — the piece of music that will make me believe everything is right with the world.
I’ve spent over two decades teaching music history to high school students in humanities classes and adults in community education and lifelong learning programs. Something I’ve learned teaching my students — even the ones who claim they are "tone deaf" — is that getting them to like classical music is not difficult. Once they know a little about the elements of music and can place a piece of music in historical context, they usually become classical music enthusiasts. As the conductor Benjamin Zander said, "Everyone likes classical music, they just don't know it yet.”
And that is the mission of this website — to help more people realize how much they would enjoy classical music if they simply gave it a chance. Understanding classical music might take a little more time and effort than understanding a three-minute pop song, but the rewards are worth it. At its best, classical music has the ability to purify your soul, calm your mind, and bring unbridled joy into your life.
I created this website as a labor of love and invite you to visit it often to discover the tremendous pleasure that comes from listening to classical music. Rather than advising you to stop and smell the roses, I’ll recommend that you stop and listen to the music. I am certain that you will enjoy the experience.
James L. Smith is a former high school history teacher who now works as an education consultant, writer, publisher, and part-time teacher. As a consultant, Jim has made presentations to teachers throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia. His presentations provide professional development opportunities for history teachers who want to help students develop analytical thinking and writing skills. He also makes presentations on a variety of topics in U.S. history, as well as presentations about the general art of teaching. In 2014 Jim taught a MOOC for Rice University titled "The Art of Teaching History" that reached over 6700 teachers in 148 nations. During the time that Jim is not consulting or writing, he teaches community education classes on music history.
Jim is the author of an American history textbook titled Ideas That Shape A Nation, a book that has been endorsed by teachers and scholars throughout the nation, including two Pulitzer Prize-winning historians (David Kennedy and Jack Rakove). In 2013, his novel Catherine’s Son was named a finalist for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award as best historical fiction. Jim is also the author of Skipper Hall: The Life and Religious Philosophy of a Methodist Minister in New Mexico. Jim has published articles and book reviews in Healthy U, The Journal of Southern History, Phi Delta Kappan, AP Central, and Historical Times.
Jim has been a recipient of the James Madison Fellowship, the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship, and a two-time recipient of the William Robertson Coe Fellowship. He has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education (history and music) and two master’s degrees (history and government). The Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History has recognized Jim as the U.S. History Teacher of the Year. He has also been recognized as the New Mexico Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the National Teachers Hall of Fame.