Bill Punch, Music Director & Trumpet
Bill took over as musical director upon the retirement of the band’s founder Jack Mitchell. A native of the Ozarks he graduated from Drury University in Springfield, Missouri which is also his home town. While at Drury University he participated in several Stan Kenton Jazz Clinics. Bill has been an area music educator since 1978 and recently retired from Webb City High School in 2006. Among several accomplishments at Webb City was the creation of the Webb City Jazz festival bringing several renowned Jazz artists to the area – including iconic trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. He has served as clinician and adjudicator in the four state area for several years.
As musical director of the JM Band, Bill pride’s himself in playing “songs people know”! Special care is taken to provide the appropriate music for the variety of audiences for which the JM Band performs. His main goal is to provide top quality music that will touch his audience and make them in a word – HAPPY!
Besides the JM Band, Bill presently divides his time between serving as a brass and woodwind instructor at ArkansasMusicWorks in Bentonville, real estate agent in Neosho & Joplin, MO, and spoiling his six grandchildren.
Susan Wizer, Vocalist
Susan Wizer is a native of Fayetteville, Arkansas and has been the vocalist for the JM Band for 14 years. She has sung for local, private and public events as well as traveling in Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri to perform. A trained musician, Susan continues to make great music with the JM Band. She continues to challenge herself vocally, and loves to experiment with different genres of music. Her vocal style and energy on the stage is entertaining and can charm an audience!
Bob Umiker, Lead Alto Saxophone
Robert Umiker, clarinet and saxophone, received a B.S. Degree in Music Education from the State University of New York at Fredonia and his M.M. from the Eastman School of Music, studying with Stanley Hasty and Sigurd Rascher. While at Eastman, he was Principal Clarinet in the Eastman Wind Ensemble. Before coming to the University of Arkansas in 1970, he taught woodwinds at Henderson University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas and clarinet at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point. Mr. Umiker has appeared as soloist and principal clarinetist with numerous performing groups throughout the region. He has also directed music festivals in Arkansas, Maryland, and Montana. While at the University of Arkansas, Robert performed as a member of the Ozark Chamber Players and was a founding member of the Lyrique Quintet. He is now retired and an Emeritus Professor at the Uinversity of Arkansas where he taught for 31 years. Mr. Umiker lives in Fayetteville and continues to perform in area music events and with the JM Band.
Deborah Shaw, Alto Saxophone
Deborah has been playing in the JM Band for the last 10 years. She has her Bachelors degree in Music Education from California State University, Long Beach and Masters Degree in Music Performance from the University of Arkansas where she received membership in Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Kappa Lambda. She has played with groups such as North Arkansas Symphony, was principal chair clarinetist in the Benton County Civic Orchestra for 8 years and is currently the clarinetist for Opus 3 Trio. Her day job is teaching wonderful band kids at Lingle Middle School in Rogers. Her husband, Bob, also plays in the band and they have 2 grown sons, Matthew and Michael.
Herb Schade, Lead Tenor Saxophone
Herb Schade lives in Neosho, MO and joined the JM Band in 2008; he plays lead tenor saxophone and clarinet. In addition to the big band, he has also played tenor and alto sax on occasional jobs with the JM combo. Herb’s other musical career included playing in college stage bands and professional jobs with various rock and jazz combos in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas. In addition to the JM Band group, he plays 1st clarinet with the Bella Vista Community Band, along with his wife Barb, and sings in his church choir and the Crowder College Community Choir.
Herb continues his day job at Crowder College in Neosho, MO, however, at a slower pace. He has retired as Vice President of Academic Affairs (Chief Academic Officer) at Crowder and is back in the classroom as Emeritus Physics Instructor, teaching Survey of Physical Science, calculus-level Introductory Physics and Engineering Statics to general education students and future science and engineering majors.
Herb is a proud parent and grand parent of three children and five grandchildren, spread from Pensacola, FL to Racine, MO to Oklahoma City, OK. Part of his “fun” includes seeing the “locals” on a regular basis and travels to see the more distant family members.
Dave Turner, saxophone
Dave Turner graduated in 1970 from Annandale High School in Annandale, Virginia. He was first chair Bari Sax in All Region and All-State Band. After graduating from the University of the Ozarks with a BA in Music Applied, he enlisted in the Air Force and was selected to play in the Air Force Jazz Band called “The Noteables” at the Strategic Air Command Headquarters near Omaha, NE. He played through the Bicentennial, performing all over the country, on television and backing many celebrities.
Dave was transferred to Germany in 1977, and played in the Air Force Band in Europe’s “Ambassadors” Jazz band also known as “The Glen Miller Band”. In 1979 Dave put his horn away and served a distinguished officer’s career.
Dave, his wife, Kareen, and two daughters built their log home on Beaver Lake. Dave met up with an old band buddy, and was invited to play with the Bella Vista Big Band. He welcomed the idea of getting back into music and has played locally ever since. He currently plays in a sax quartet/quintet, a small jazz band, and the JM Band of Northwest Arkansas.
Ron Thurston, JMBand Manager & Saxophone
Ronald Thurston is a native of Kansas and received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Arkansas in Chemistry and Animal Physiology, respectively. After obtaining a PhD degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia in physiology, Ronald worked five years in Pulmonary Research at the V.A. Hospital and University of Missouri-Columbia Medical Center, then accepted a professorship at Clemson University in Animal and Veterinary Science, a position he occupied for 28 years. Music has always occupied a special place in his life as he is an honorary member of the Clemson University Jungleers Alumni Jazz Band, is a member of the Bella Vista Community Band and manages the JM Band as well as being Chairman of the Board of Big Bands Unlimited. He had a business at Clemson for ten years, Noteus Music, and taught many students the techniques of playing the saxophone. Ron is married to Chris Thurston formerly of Fayetteville, and they are the parents of three adult children with five grandchildren.
Keith Wood, Lead Trumpet
Keith Wood was born in Mena, Arkansas, and began playing trumpet in 1973 (Thanks to his dad for keeping the old 1938 Conn cornet and the ‘Doc’ Severinsen albums all those years!). His teachers include Keith Johnson, Bobby Shew, Don Jacoby and Clint McLaughlin. He is a graduate of The University of North Texas, and has played in 46 of the 50 states, as well as the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Scandinavia, Germany, Belgium and Zimbabwe, Africa. In addition to the JM Band and Combo, Keith currently plays with Naturally Brass, Full House and the orchestra of the First Baptist Church of Centerton. He enjoys all kinds of wildlife (some of which can be found in his house), collecting interesting trumpets, coins and old-fashion albums, and learning things he missed or that weren’t taught in ten years of college.
Jon Amsden, Trumpet
A native of Louisiana, Jon relocated to Northwest Arkansas in 1995, he joined the JMBand trumpet section in late 2014.
Jon started playing trumpet in elementary school. Having received guidance from his mother Martha.
Jon was selected to play 1st trumpet in the 1988/1989 McDonalds’ All American Band, and received a full music scholarship. He’s performed with many groups over the years and loves jazz. John works as an IT professional by day, and enjoys multi-sport (triathlon) and Jazz.
Jim Bell, Trumpet
Jim was a Jr. high and high school band director in Arkansas for several years. He also played as a professional trumpet in the Little Rock area for dance bands, circus bands, ice capades and other shows and Disney on Parade. He moved to Northwest Arkansas in 1979 and played with the Jack Terry Big Band and the original Jack Mitchell Big Band before it became the JM Band.
Rob Taylor, Trumpet
Rob Taylor was born in Rhode Island where he started playing trumpet in the sixth grade band. His love for jazz music lead him to Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. He later played with numerous jazz ensembles and bands until settling in New Hampshire where he continued to play trumpet in different bands while teaching young musicians privately and through summer ensemble programs.
Rob moved to NWA in 2015 where he met Bill Punch and started playing with the JM Band. Rob’s love for music is continuing with his five children where they range from playing instruments to singing to composing music. Rob’s day job has him building corporate training programs but he still enjoys composing and arranging music in his free time as well as playing his compositions for his wife Patience Taylor.
Rick Schmidt, Lead Trombone
Rick Schmidt is an original member of the Jack Mitchell Band before it became the JM Band, having joined in 1992 after moving to Arkansas from Kansas City. Rick has a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Bowling Green State University. He taught instrumental instruction for all grades, elementary through high school, in Ohio. Rick has a varied musical background having played in high school and college symphonic bands and orchestras. He was a founding member of the Raytown (MO) Community Band and served on its Board of Directors. Rick has played for local musical theater groups and arranged music (and performed) in a “Blues Brothers Revival” that benefited Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. He enjoys playing a variety of music, but his preference is for the big band genre.
Bob Shaw, Trombone
Bob started as a sub for the JM Band 12 years ago, and became a regular player a few years later. He was also one of the founding members of the Jack Mitchell Praise Band. Bob plays in a few other groups as well when he is not at work in the IT department at Wal-mart. He is married to Deborah, who plays alto sax in the JM Band. They have 2 grown sons, Matthew and Michael.
Jess Ferguson, Trombone
Jess Ferguson hails from Bella Vista, AR. She’s been involved in music since she was born, attending Opera rehearsals with her Opera singing parents for the duration of her childhood. She began studying piano at age 5. She excelled at trombone in junior high and high school, playing in the top bands at Arkansas All-Region and All-State. She also played lead trombone in the Bella Vista Big Band as a junior and senior in high school (Fall 2001-Spring 2003). She continued to play in college at Simpson College in Indianola, IA, as lead trombone in the Jazz Band and Wind Ensemble. She also played in the orchestra for oratorios, performed with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra, and was 1st chair in the Iowa Intercollegiate Band in 2004. She played briefly at Wichita State University where she majored in Music Performance – Voice. During a 10 year hiatus from trombone, she worked as a professional Opera singer all across the United States. She still performs and sings both Opera and Blues/Heavy Metal music. She settled back in Northwest Arkansas in 2015 and joined the Bella Vista Community Concert Band. In Summer of 2017, she was invited to join the JM Band. She is overjoyed to be playing big band music again and is particularly thrilled to be a member of the JM Band.
Bill Clark, Trombone
Bill Clark has lived for the last 26 years in Fayetteville. He majored in trombone at the Ohio State University. Afterwards, he played for four years in the Air Force Band of the Rockies at Lowry AFB. For the past 26 years he has divided his time playing between a couple of local big bands and pit orchestras for several local theaters. Bill has played with the JM Band for four years.
Charles Faulk, Piano
Charles Faulk has a Master of Music degree in piano performance from the University of Arkansas. Over the years, Charles has worked as a secondary school choral music teacher, rehearsal pianist for various theaters, theatrical music director, and pit musician for many theaters in the Midwest. He also plays jazz in a number of ensembles, including the JM Band. In addition to this, Charles is a Registered Piano Technician with the Piano Technicians Guild. He is also the inventor of a number of small tools for the piano tuning trade including the Faulk Tuning Hammer.
Ray Cork, Bass
Ray cork has been a life-long musician. His first paying “gig” was at 12 years of age. Ray directed his high school pep and jazz bands, then attended the University of Illinois and participated in the ROTC, concert and marching bands before obtaining his B.S. degree in music education. His professional performances are extensive, including participating in bands for Sonny and Cher, The Righteous Brothers, Bobby Vinton, Brenda Lee, Sam the Sham and others. Ray then worked for Lake Tahoe at Harrah’s, and in Las Vegas at the Convention Center for Richard Nixon’s Campaign (co-composer of a song used by the Nixon Campaign, and in the movie “The Hoax”). His work in Las Vegas was extensive, including jobs at the Sahara, the Mint, and the grand opening of the Sky Room at the Flamingo.
At RCA in Hollywood, he made his first Gold Record at age 27! Ray helped arrange and conducted “Grazin in the Grass” which can be heard today in the movie Anchorman & Anchorman II, and it was used in three TV ads for Dodge Durango. He toured with the Ed Sullivan show, the Tonight show, and the “Friends”, where he produced/arranged four albums, one with Zager and Evans and one with Jack Jones. Ray relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona where he resided for twenty-two years, recording with many bands, and arranging and recording jingles and voice-overs for radio and television. He recorded at least 75% of the narrations used by Waylon Jennings between scenes of the show “Dukes of Hazard”. While playing at the Royal Palms, Ray met his lovely wife Gilda, and after marriage they moved to Oracle, Arizona where they resided for a few years before moving to Bella Vista, Arkansas. Ray joined the JM Band and has brought to the band much musical experience and talent.
Gary McCarty, Drums
Gary McCarty has a great love for Band music. Having grown up playing in school and college bands, and drum & bugle corps in Illinois, Mr. McCarty attended the University of Kansas and Emporia State University, where he studied Music Education and Percussion. McCarty taught Band in public schools in Kansas and Missouri for 31 years. He has served on the state board of the Kansas Music Educators’ Association twice while serving as President of the KMEA North Central and Southeast districts, taught at the Midwestern Music Camp in Lawrence, and is an active adjudicator, consultant, and clinician. Having retired from teaching in 2008, Mr. McCarty worked as the Music Education Representative for Flint Hills Music of Emporia until 2014. He is now proprietor of McCarty Band Services, where he designs visual programs for Marching Band as well as acting as a clinician and consultant for school Band programs.
An avid jazz and classical performer, Gary plays in several organizations in NW Arkansas including the JM Band and combos, 2nd Winds Jazz Ensemble, the Bella Vista Community Concert Band and the Ozark Mountains British Brass Band.
One of McCarty’s great loves is his involvement in City Bands. He got started playing in the band in his home town of Jacksonville, Illinois, organized and directed the Satanta (KS) Band, performed in the Hiawatha (KS) City Jazz Band, and played in the famed Lawrence City Band, where he was a member on-and-off for 42 years. Having retired after 23 years as the Conductor for the Emporia Municipal, McCarty now serves on the conducting team for the Bella Vista Community Concert Band.