When a young John Bolton found himself floundering in the rough waters of adolescence, it was band class that came to his rescue.
“It was a lifeboat for me as a kid,” Bolton said. “And it’s not that my home life was so horrible as I see with the kids today who have to deal with some really difficult situations.
“But, music was the anchor of my day.”
To this day, he remembers his band teacher as the man who took him under his wing and personalized his education.
Repaying that legacy, Bolton now conducts 72 students in the Moffat County High School band, in addition to teaching at Craig Middle School, organizing a marching band for football games and directing the MCHS jazz band.
His dedication to the band program the past six years has not gone unnoticed in the community.
On Tuesday, the Craig Daily Press, school officials and Bolton’s family surprised him during jazz band class with the 2009-10 Craig Daily Press Teacher of the Year award.
Bolton found words difficult to come by when presented with the honor.
He simply turned to his jazz band students, who were applauding, and bowed slightly.
“It’s really nothing I’ve done,” said Bolton, whose band boasts more than twice as many students as six years ago. “I mean, it’s this group. They’re everywhere I am.
“I’m just blessed to be able to touch them in some way.”
One of his students expected him to be humble and try to shine the spotlight somewhere else.
“He’s not one to ask for attention,” said Kyle Boss, an MCHS junior who spends two hours a day with Bolton playing trombone in band and jazz band. “But, I think he deserves it out of everyone else. He’s done the most, shown the most and he’s just been there.”
Boss nominated Bolton for the award.
The Craig Daily Press’ Editorial Board then chose Bolton from a field of 23 nominated teachers.
Boss said he has many teachers he likes and respects at the high school, but Bolton’s dedication and passion was far and away the most deserving of recognition.
“He shows his students so much love,” Boss said. “He tells us everyday, ‘I love you guys,’ and ‘You mean the world to me.’”
Besides his family of 72 high school musicians, Bolton also supports his wife and seven daughters, who range in age from 3-year-old twins to a college freshman.
His wife, Teri Bolton, knows firsthand the kind of sacrifices her husband has made during his six years teaching band in the school district.
Bolton has a second job, and sometimes returns home after midnight only to wake up early the next morning to share his passion for music with his students.
“It’s been a sacrifice,” Teri said. “But, I will never make him do something other than what he loves to do.”
Despite Bolton’s many commitments, Boss said his teacher never comes to class looking tired or worn-down.
“He’s a really hard-working guy,” he said. “I imagine he’s tired, but he just doesn’t show it.”
For all his hard work, Bolton doesn’t expect all of his students to be professional performers or music teachers when they get older.
He only hopes he can have an impact on their lives by humanizing music education and making the band room a safe and positive environment.
“We hope that when our kids have kids, they will introduce them to music when it comes time,” he said.
After Bolton was presented with the award, school district superintendent Joe Petrone said in his short time knowing Bolton, he has always been “sincere” and a “genuinely kind, warm person.”
High school principal Thom Schnellinger added that Bolton’s dedication to the band program has impacted students and the community.
Bolton said his devotion to his students is the most effortless part of his job.
“It’s easy to love all those kids in band,” he said.