BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — “My main job isn’t just to be a composer, but to be a teacher for the students and which I love to do,” said John Darling, professor of music at Bismarck State College. “I love working with these kids.”
And while teaching is a big part of what John Darling does day in, and day out, everything else he’s done over the years ties into his teaching. John spent 23 years in the military.
He became a warrant officer and conducted bands in South Carolina, Korea, Fort Lee, Virginia, and more.
“And my last posting, it was a hardship tour was Hawaii,” Darling exclaimed.
But he jumped when another opportunity arose.
“Ohio State, the Ohio State, contacted me said if you can get here in the fall, we’re gonna put you in our doctoral program,” Darling explained.
John then went on to Rutgers University, which he said was great.
He and his wife, who was originally from Hankinson, North Dakota, would frequently go back to her home state where their son lived, but something was missing.
“Getting back to North Dakota was important so that we could see the grandkids and my son and his family,” Darling recalled, “and eventually there became three grandkids. So it became even more important. “
So in 2003, they moved to Bismarck when he landed a job at Bismarck State College, and for nearly 19 years, John has taken all of his musical experience traversing the world to teach his students.
“It’s that kind of lifelong journey that you take,” Darling said. “And along the way, you know, you hope you plant seeds, enough that those seeds grow and prosper. And those people are now teaching and doing the same thing for their students.”
One project that is sure to impact students and many audiences in the future, is his most recent composition.
“Yes, ‘The Wolves of Yellowstone,” said Darling.
It is a tone poem he composed while completing his master’s degree.
The story behind the piece is the Grey Wolves from Canada were being reintroduced to Yellowstone Park after being hunted out years prior.
“A couple of years ago, I pulled it out and said there’s 20 years, we just passed the 20-year anniversary of the wolves being reintroduced, and in 20 years, that ecosystem has managed to correct itself. So I followed the storyline of Yellowstone,” Darling explained.
And it’s projects like this that John hopes will impact and instill his passion for music into his students, music majors, and non-majors.
“The plan that is to teach the students, why are we doing this piece, not just because it sounds nice, but I try to be very careful with the music I pick, finding things that the students need to grow as musicians, but also finding pieces that will interest them in terms of their the background story,” said Darling.
And thanks in part to a strong team with a good support system, John knows his methodology and ways of teaching work.
“I saw them come through, and I’ve seen them come back, and now they are the teachers at our local high schools,” Darling said.
John Darling is “Someone You Should Know.”
And John continues to grow those relationships, and create new ones by filling his calendar with summer band, All-State Music, International Music Camp, Northern Plains Music Festival, and an active member of the symphony board.
John’s composition, “The Wolves of Yellowstone” will be performed by the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony in March.