Music Educator/Adjudicator/Clinician
Jimmy Cheek was a 10th grade high school drop-out that eventually earned a Ph.D. Here’s his story.
Jimmy was raised in a musical family and is the eldest of five children. His father was a striving record producer/promoter and mother sang background in a local group managed by his father, known as the Daydreams. While growing up, his early music listening experiences were provided by his father, whom would often bring music projects home and play the songs repeatedly on the record player. Jimmy was often asked to identify the various instruments. When in 5th grade, Jimmy joined the school band and learned to play saxophone. During his 7th grade year, he got into a fight at school and was suspended for a week. His father thought that he needed something to do while at home that week, so he decided to take advantage of an instrument rental plan being offered by a local music store and rented an organ. Jimmy’s father told him, he could keep the organ if he could play a song on it by the end of the week.  Jimmy would sit at the organ for several hours each day and practiced. At the end of the week, not only was he able to play a song, but he had his 3-year-old sister, Paula singing as he played.  The duo continued to practice and began to perform in local churches. They eventually became so popular that they held a full concert in the Greensboro Coliseum’s Town Hall and later opened for the renown gospel artist, Shirley Caesar at a concert venue in Durham, North Carolina.

While in middle school, Jimmy continued to play saxophone in the school band and he also joined the school chorus. He loved singing and developed a passion for chorus class. Upon entering high school, he continued with chorus instead of band. During his 10th grade year, Jimmy struggled to deal with factors associated with the divorce of his parents. As a form of rebellion, he started to skip school. These excessive absences resulted in his failure to pass the 10th grade. After being retained, Jimmy decided to quit school. He was always competitive and soon he realized that his friends would have a high school diploma and would be afforded opportunities that he wasn’t qualified to obtain. It was this realization that inspired him to get a General Equivalency Diploma (GED).  After getting his high school diploma, Jimmy joined the United States Airforce in intelligence communication and after serving his country, he received an honorable discharge.  As he applied for jobs after his military service, he realized that he was being told no from most of the jobs he sought to obtain because the position required a college degree. It was the “no, not qualified” that inspired him to eventually enroll in college and continue until he had the highest possible degree in his field of interest, which always was music.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Jimmy accepted his first position as a general music/drama teaching position at Mt. Airy Jr. High School in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. The following year, he accepted a position closer to home as the choral director at James B. Dudley High School, Greensboro, NC.  His choirs at Dudley consistently earned superior ratings at state choral festivals and performance evaluations in North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.  Jimmy continued to make a difference in the lives of others as the Founder of the Aycock Middle School Drumline (an integrated arts approach to enhance the academic achievement of at-risk students). During his graduate study he completed an Internship with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Women’s Choir. After receiving the master’s degree, he was appointed Director of Choral Activities at Barber-Scotia College.

Upon receipt of his doctorate degree, he accepted a position at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he served as the Music Program Coordinator and Music Education Coordinator in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at South Carolina State University. Following his employment with the University, he joined Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 and served as a K-12 music educator at Bethune Bowman Elementary/Middle and High Schools. During his time in Orangeburg, he became the Minister of Music at New Mt. Zion Baptist church in Orangeburg, SC.  Additionally, he served as a choral director with the Orangeburg Consolidated School District 3 at Lake Marion High School & Technology Center in Santee, South Carolina, where his choirs earned superior performance ratings at the state level.

In 2013, Jimmy accepted a job with the Clayton County School System, Jonesboro, GA and relocated to the Atlanta Metro area to serve as choral director at Lovejoy High School in Hampton, Ga. While at Lovejoy, he accomplished performance goals that the school, district and community had not seen in over a decade. He currently continues to serve the Clayton County School District at Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts.

Jimmy firmly believes that it is important to never give up on any student, because throughout his experiences, there was always someone providing him encouragement and support. He realizes that according to statistics, had he remained a high school drop-out, he would have been ineligible for 90% of the jobs in America. Jimmy also understands that had he not continued his education, he would have stood a very high chance of joining other high school drop-outs that make up over 80 percent of the incarcerated population. However, today he serves as an advocate for arts education and knows firsthand that people can be transformed and redirected if guided by their passion, which for him was music. As he moves forward, it is his sincere desire to continue having a servant attitude as he strives to make a difference in the lives of others.


The effect of race and racial perception on adjudicators' ratings of choral performances attributed to racially homogeneous and racially heterogeneous groups
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Singing Brothers of Stilwell to perform in Texas

Clayton County Public Schools
about a month ago
Clayton County Public Schools is proud to announce that Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts (MESSOA) students Cardell Smart, Kalissa Hernandez and LinDell McFadden have been selected to participate in the National Association of Music Educator’s (NAfME) 2018 All-National Honors Choir! Designed to be a representation of talented musicians across the United States, the choir will perform as part of the NAfME All-National Honor Ensembles Program at Disney’s Coronado Spring...
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