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Making music together

Tallgrass Creek neighbors chime in

Created date

March 14th, 2018
Jim Neihart tunes up with chime in hand as he prepares to teach the hand chime choir he started at Tallgrass Creek.

Jim Neihart teaches the hand chime choir he started at Tallgrass Creek.

When Jim Neihart moved to Tallgrass Creek, it didn’t take him long to do what he does best: share his longtime passion for music. Since he already had a set of hand chimes, Jim decided to start a hand chime choir, something he had done before.   

“I’d started hand chime choirs at several other places after I retired and just thought Tallgrass Creek should have one too,” says Jim.

The hand chimes Jim uses for his classes were borrowed from a small, local church that wasn’t using them.

“They’re sort of on semipermanent loan, but I take very good care of them in case they are ever needed,” says Jim.

Learning together

Hand chimes make a beautiful ringing sound similar to hand bells, but the long, slender chimes are lighter and easier to hold. Jim wheels the case of 16 chimes on a dolly to the twice-weekly classes where participants sit around tables with music in front of them, chimes in hand.

Though most participants can read music, few have experience with hand chimes. Like any group of new musicians, they are learning together.

The group performed for their neighbors at a gathering during the holidays and also at the church that loaned Jim the chimes.

“It was a way to show our appreciation,” says Jim. “They seemed to appreciate their hand chimes were being used to teach others to play.”

The choir recently started learning songs from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s and plans to perform again for their Tallgrass Creek neighbors in April. They practice Monday and Wednesdays in the Bluebird Classroom from 3 p.m to 4 p.m.

Magic of music

Jim has an extensive musical background.

After playing clarinet in high school, Jim and his late wife Carlene met in college where they both earned bachelor’s degrees in music.

Jim taught high school music until he entered the Army where he became the assistant conductor of the 101st Airborne Band at Camp Breckinridge in Kentucky. He conducted the military band known as the “Screaming Eagles” for two years.

After leaving the Army, Jim and his wife moved to Turner, Kans., where he was the high school’s band director and principal for 38 years. Along the way, they both earned master’s degrees in music at the University of Kansas.

Jim retired in 1984 and subbed as a music teacher for the next several years.

With all his experience as a music teacher, Jim is quick to point out that Carlene was the real musician. An internationally acclaimed pipe organist, she played concerts in both Europe and the United States. When the American Guild of Organists holds their annual meeting in Kansas City, Mo., in July, they will honor her with a recital.

“Music was just our thing,” says Jim. “We both enjoyed playing and teaching.”

Jim would like to see the Tallgrass Creek hand chimes choir continue to improve and, at some point, play concerts around the community, perhaps at other retirement communities.

“I think it’s important to keep doing and learning,” says Jim. “Music offers that opportunity in a very nice way.”