Middle School Band Director Retires

Band director Mr. Heltman directs one of the 6th grade band at the band concert on May 9th. This is the last concert he will direct before his retirement.

Riley Samuelson

Mr. Jeff Heltman is retiring from the position of middle school band teacher after 40 years at Norwalk Middle School. 

“I think 40 is a good number,” he said. “I have a little grandson and my son is getting married, so we will have two more bonus grandkids into our life. It will be fun to go and watch them grow as well.”

Heltman said he always had a knack for music throughout his childhood.

“Music was always a passion I had,” he said. “I started piano when I was 5. I loved doing it. It was my stress relief.”

He found his passion for teaching and directing in high school. 

“My sophomore year, I became the drum major,” he said. “It was in the South – St. Pete Fla. – and the band director assigned me to be in charge of the pep band. He would give me the keys, and I was responsible for opening and locking up. As a sophomore, it was a pretty big responsibility.” 

After high school, he went to college and found his passion for music. He knew education was the way for him to go, and got a job student teaching at Norwalk High School.

“This is where I student taught, and the gentleman I was student teaching under decided to go get his masters, so that opened up a position, and I was able to slide in,” Heltman said.

He has been in charge of the middle school program his whole career here, but it has grown significantly over time. 

“It is neat to see where we came from,” he said. “When I first started, there were two concert bands, a sixth-grade band, and a combination seventh and eighth-grade band. Now we have five middle school concert bands.”

Heltman said he is proud of the program’s growth during his tenure at Norwalk.

“We also have two jazz bands compared to just one,” he said. “Not only that, but to see the success in the high school that follows up with having a larger program is super neat.”

Heltman said he has a passion and liking for teaching middle school-aged band students. 

“I can give them a fun start and hopefully allow the kids to enjoy it, and I want to help them appreciate music and share with them what I know,” he said. 

Matthew Andrews, former student and current teacher at Norwalk, said he is very thankful for Jeff Heltman. 

“He was the first one to channel my passion for music and put it in a direction that he saw would be important for me,” Andrews said. “He took a chance on me, and had confidence in me that I would be a good bass player.”

Andrews now works at Norwalk Middle School as a paraeducator. 

“My earliest memory I can think of with Mr. Heltman was being a seventh-grade trumpet player and being in jazz band for the first time,” he said. “We went over to Ruby-Van Meter, a school for students with disabilities. That was my first time playing jazz in front of a crowd, and it was just a fun day.”

Andrews mentioned the importance that the opportunities Mr. Heltman gave to him have had on his life. 

“He kind of led me to get a bunch of opportunities that I wouldn’t normally have had,” he said. “While getting to play bass at Drake, I got to tour Switzerland and Italy, and I wouldn’t have done that if weren’t for my bass playing.”