Music, Theatre, Dance Faculty & Staff

First Name

Last Name

Profile Photo


Music Education, Part-time Faculty

Office Address
1300 Haas Center for the Performing Arts

Office Phone


Dr. James Sawyer earned degrees from VanderCook College of Music, the
University of Michigan and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also attended
Grambling College. Dr. Sawyer’s career as a music educator began as band
director of a small parochial school in Chicago. He has since served as Director
of Bands at Livingstone College and Assistant Director of Bands at the University
of Nebraska-Omaha. He taught 18 years in the Grand Rapids Public Schools,
including serving two years as principal of an arts and literature academy. In
2016, he was named Member Emeritus of the Michigan School Band and
Orchestra Association after 15 years as band director in the Kentwood Public
Schools. While there, his marching, concert and jazz bands consistently earned
top ratings at district and state festivals & competitions. Many his students have
gone on to become professional musicians and music educators.
Dr. Sawyer has conducted the Blue Lake International Jazz Ensemble and Jazz
Orchestra (BLFAC) throughout France, Germany & Denmark and currently
serves as a coordinator for BLFAC jazz faculty. He teaches jazz instruction at
Grand Valley State University and is an often requested guest conductor,
clinician and adjudicator at regional and national events. His professional credits
include lead trumpet for the Temptations, Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, Shirley Jones
and the Lawrence Welk All-Stars. He plays regularly with the Grand Rapids Jazz
Orchestra and the Truth in Jazz Orchestra. He is married to renown vocalist and
gospel clinician Charsie Sawyer. Their son, Jay is a professional drummer who
currently resides in New York City.