I spent 26 years with Intel Corporation as an engineer and manager with a background in C-programming, logic and problem solving. As I approached my retirement in 2013, my intention was to truly retire. But I knew I was eligible for the Encore Fellowship program that Intel offers its retirees and it seemed like a shame to waste that opportunity.
I had thought about going back to school in music, which is a longtime interest of mine, so when I applied for the fellowship program (run locally by the Experience Matters organization), I asked “Do you have anything related to music?”
That is how I came to serve as the project manager for music technology at the Phoenix, Arizona Conservatory of Music. I help them purchase Macs and other equipment on their limited budget and make sure new workstations complement the curriculum and activities. My background in engineering helps, but much of my work is interpersonal communication, something that, at Intel, you learn to do well.
With states like Arizona defunding programs for the arts in schools, students have little opportunity to get individual music lessons and tutoring. Our program works with low-income, at-risk kids who come here from many different high schools, meet others interested in music and get their training.
I’ve also gotten the opportunity to do some music mentoring of high school kids considering a future in music. Working with the kids is kind of new to me, and I enjoy learning how to engage them, how to speak to what’s relevant to them and to what they want to do in music.
“Without Jim’s technical expertise and passion – coupled with the funding and resources that Experience Matters coordinates and supports – Phoenix Conservatory of Music would not have been able to get this project off the ground.”
–PCM Executive Director Regina Nixon
While I always loved music, I never thought to pursue it as a profession. I made a conscious decision to go into engineering because that’s how I would support myself. When we talk to the students, we are realistic. They realize the odds of being the next superstar are small, but there is also music therapy, music marketing and other related fields.
If I had nothing to do all day, it would be drive me crazy and I really believe the encore idea is getting some traction. Personally, I’m getting exposure to the needs of my community. Once you start doing this, you see opportunities to give back all around you.