By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Paul Morton has been referred to as a magician of sorts for his dedication and success in molding beginners of many instruments into accomplished musicians.

He has been doing it with passion and joy for a remarkable thirty years.

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In symphonic band class at Driftwood Middle School, there are 80 students daily, currently rehearsing holiday music and paying close attention to their director’s cues.

As they warm up their instruments, he commends them for their good behavior.

“I’m really proud of you, how you came in here today and how you carried yourselves,” he praised.

Every day for three decades, in this room, so many students have learned to appreciate music and many to master an instrument.

He came here after teaching high school for six years.

“I really enjoy the middle school kids because they get really excited,” he said.

He added that the life of a high school band director is also very demanding on time, and as a father, he wanted to spend more time with his own kids.

Three decades of instructing 11- to 13-year-olds, maintaining a positive vibe, and cracking jokes, but never straying from instructing.

“We are going to speed it up a little, woodwinds? I know, that’s a challenge,” he prodded.

Driftwood Middle School band awards. (CBS4)

And rise to the challenge they do- clearly – as the school band earns awards year after year.

Victoria McFarland is an eighth-grader who plays the baritone.

She needed some extra help and got lessons via Zoom during the pandemic.

She loves the instrument and is grateful for Mr. Morton.

Driftwood Middle School band member Victoria McFarland. (CBS4)

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“He has an expectation and wants us to get somewhere but he going to also have fun with us and he’s really a good teacher to talk to and he encourages us,” said Victoria.

“The students will often come to me with issues and problems that they’re having before they come to other people they will walk into my room like ‘you’re my therapist;  I need to talk to you,’  and it’s a family,” Morton said.

His room is a safe space where they get to be themselves, where he carefully guides them to do their best.

Tristan Artanis knows, he just made All-State for tenor sax. It’s an accomplishment he credits to his years of practice and Mr. Morton encouraging him to try out.

“If you make a mistake, he’ll tell you. And if you keep making the mistake he’ll find try to find a different way to you to understand how to fix that.”

Driftwood Middle School band. (CBS4)

Beyond his own classroom exists a network of Morton’s former students, and mentees who have gone on to be band directors, there is even a group text called ‘Paul’s children.’

“Not a day goes by that somebody does not call up and say ‘Hey, I’m having a problem, how do I fix this?’ And, to me, it’s small, but to them, their whole world is blowing up. It’s an honor to be able to help them; it’s an honor to have my opinion valued.”

One mentee is Angela Maxion, who graduated from FSU and did her student teaching with Morton.

She is now the band director at Hollywood Hills High School, the feeder pattern school for Driftwood.

“I learned a lot in college, but 75% of what I know about being a band director came from him. He’s just a fantastic teacher a fantastic band director to his kids and a phenomenal mentor,” she boasts, adding to that “he has a huge heart.”

And educators all around him are better for his dedication to his craft, just ask Driftwood Principal Steven Williams.

He said that Morton inspires the staff with his attitude, saying “he still loves it like its day one.”

Driftwood Middle School Band Director Paul Morton (CBS4)

Morton has no intention of retiring soon he said, as finding the job still fulfills him.

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“The daily success is seeing that child that has been struggling for some reason- academically or emotionally – and have success, it finally clicks, and it changes them. They have a purpose they have a newfound love in their life they have something for one hour a day that they really enjoy.”

Karli Barnett