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Dr. James Sawyer, Music Director

Dr. James R Sawyer a native of Chicagoan, moved to Grand Rapids by way of the University of Michigan. There he earned a Master of Music in Trumpet Performance. His conducting experience includes 45+ years of public/private school instruction and serving as Director of Bands at Livingstone College of North Carolina and Assistant Director of Bands at University of Nebraska-Omaha. He coordinates the jazz camp at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and is adjunct instructor for Teaching Jazz Techniques at Grand Valley State University.  He holds degrees from VanderCook College of Music, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and a Doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As a performer his credits include playing for such artists as The Temptations, Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, Shirley Jones, and the Lawrence Welk All-Stars.
Locally, he plays with the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra, the Truth in Jazz Orchestra of Muskegon and is a free-lance trumpeter. He feels honored and blessed to have the opportunity to conduct this prestigious musical organization.


HCJO Members
2021-22 Season


  • Alain Sullivan

  • Caleb Elzinga

  • Bill Bier

  • Mike Hamman



  • Nate VanderWerf

  • Keith Walker

  • Austin Hunt

  • Mark Sluiter



  • Ed Spier

  • Jeff Carroll

  • Jim Groelsma

  • Adam Graham


Rhythm Section

  • Leah Reinardy, Piano

  • Liam Coussens, Bass

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