MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Beloved veteran Dillard High music teacher Christopher Dorsey is set to retire after teaching music to kids for more than 30 years.
Inside Dillard High School’s band room, a soothing sound fills the air. If you close your eyes, you could swear a professional jazz ensemble had taken over the classroom but it’s actually coming from Dillard students who are this good because of Jazz Director Christopher Dorsey.READ MORE: Monkeypox Case In Broward County Under Investigation
“He’s an amazing instructor. He has had a tremendous impact not just on students but on teachers and young teachers. To the students, he’s more than just a music teacher,” said Dillard Principal Cassandra Robinson.
Mr. Dorsey is hanging up the instruments and conductor’s wand after teaching jazz for the last 18 years at Dillard.
It’s not often you come across an instructor who makes such a powerful impact on young students.
“One of his philosophies is always, not only to teach the music, but teach the life skills develop the character traits they need to be successful,” said Artistic Director Israel Charles.
“Definitely say it has been one of the best experiences to build me up as a character,” said senior Christopher Goldwire. “Because before I was just shy and timid. Being able to play in this band has really boost my confidence.”
Another senior, Garrett Lubbers, added, “He incorporates the work ethic that we use in the band room into every aspect of life. He’s not just teaching you jazz, he’s teaching you life skills you can use in life.”
Life impressions to musical impressions is how Dorsey pushed his kids to be better and never to be content.
It’s something Dorsey learned not as a starry-eyed young musician, but as a son listening to dear old dad.
Christopher Dorsey recalled, “He, my dad, used to say things like, ‘Hey man, you started in music at 15. Musicians start at the age of 12 or 13. You already a couple of years behind.’ So that’s the imaginary chip that’s on my shoulder that’s been on there ever since.”
He used that motivation to move to the head of the class.
Dorsey played professionally with jazz greats like Nat Adderley, Dionne Warwick and Melton Mustafa.
His toe tapping beats rubbed off on young minds soaking up his soothing sounds like a sponge.READ MORE: Couples Set To Make 2022 A Record Year For Tying The Knot
“If it wasn’t for Me. Dorsey I wouldn’t be the musician I am today,” said Kirby Fellis, a former student.
Fellis graduated in 2012 from Dillard. He went on to study jazz and music at Michigan State. He’s now pursuing his master’s in music.
Fellis has traveled the world playing professionally. In fact, May 7 and 8 he’s playing in the Chicago Symphony.
He says his accomplishments are credited to Mr. Dorsey’s tutelage of tones, but it goes beyond that.
Fellis said, “As a mentor, Mr. Dorsey has been like a father figure to a lot of us, but he’s also been one of the harshest critics and helping establish the discipline we have as a musician.”
Dorsey said his mission from day one at Dillard was to turn the jazz program into a national powerhouse.
He did. Dillard’s jazz ensemble has either won or finished in the top four over a dozen times in national competitions.
It’s an accomplishment this retiring teacher, who made an indelible footprint for nearly two decades, is ready to hang up.
Dorsey leaves behind one last instruction.
“In life there’s going to be improvisations,” Dorsey said. “You going to have to adjust, you going to have to adapt, you going to have make changes, you have to do things just like that sometimes. That’s just how life is.”
Dorsey isn’t sure what he’ll be doing in retirement but said in some way he’ll still push for music education.
On Saturday May 7 Dorsey, his friends, and students will get together for a jazz jam session at Art Serve in Fort Lauderdale at 6 p.m.
Then on Sunday, May 8, Dillard’s jazz ensemble will perform its annual concert, Sweet Dillard Jazz, at the high school. Showtime is set for 5 p.m.MORE NEWS: Pedestrian Fatalities In The US Reach Highest Level In 40 Years
Tickets for both events are $25. Proceeds will go towards a scholarship in Christopher Dorsey’s name.