The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

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Music Teacher Jazzes up his Classes


A gust of wind whips open the door to cottage 2, a man follows who seemed to waltz in cooler than the breeze. His transition lenses darkened from the sunlight couldn’t hide the humor in his eyes as he gave a cheeky grin to his student waiting for his piano lesson, “You ready?” He asked.

Professor Jeff Baumeister has a few signature traits; his blue Levi jeans, a zip-up with a tee, and being on vacation time. Despite being a scarce 10 minutes late to his student lesson he starts his sessions right away.

“I had the best teachers here at Bucks,” Baumeister professor of music said. “Sometimes when I’m teaching I can actually hear their voice, as I’m saying something, and I’m like (ugh) they would think that was so stupid,” he said while laughing.

He holds his music lessons in his office, a small, simple room with a few personal items like pictures, a mug, a keychain, and lots of music books. The piano is set up against a wall next to a window. He stands next to the piano as his students play, usually nodding or tapping his foot along as he listens with his hand on the piano. His students are comfortable joking around and show him attentiveness when he’s giving advice or pointers. “Go the way your ear is taking you.”

Baumeister started playing the piano around 13 or 14 years of age. He drew himself a keyboard made out of cardboard and would use that as practice, “I eventually got a piano in high school,” he said. “I really wanted to play.” Throughout his youth he was a fan of rock piano, the two biggest artists that he listened to were Little Feet and Elton John. Then when he enrolled in Bucks as a music major his professors started introducing him to jazz and “I didn’t know anything about jazz at all,” he said.

“At Bucks, I started playing jazz and classical music, and I still am. So I studied both forever, I’m still studying, still learning, still practicing, every day I try to.” He asked one of his teachers, Professor Sam Bellardo who was lecturing music theory, for piano lessons and they worked together for years.

Baumeister works together with his pupils during a lesson, they’re able to swiftly switch seats so he can demonstrate a tune. As he sits on the piano bench you see his spine decompress, and his body melts toward the piano as his fingers touch the keys. He’s always devoted his time to the piano and plays the melodica, a handheld reed-free instrument similar to a harmonica, for fun.

His main classes are History of Jazz and History of Rock but Baumeister also influences the early students at Bucks teaching courses like Guided Studies and College Seminar. He shows just as much passion in those classes as he displays for jazz, encouraging students to do a lot of self-reflection to tap into their interests to help them pick a major, while also informing others about the School of Music. “A lot of students and faculty don’t even know we have music in the arts department,” Baumeister said. “In almost every semester in Guided Studies or College101, they’re like ‘Wait a minute, you have music here?’ And I’m like yes we do.”

He says a lot of students played an instrument or sang in high school but didn’t want to do it as a major. “You don’t need to be a music major to take advantage of the school of music,” he said. He tells students about how they can join an ensemble or choir to keep up with their musical hobbies.

Being a huge Phillies fan he takes advantage of the school of music himself by joining the Bucks choir every year as they sing the national anthem at the Citizen Bank Park before a game. “Any chance I get I go to a game, so signing on the grass that was freaking awesome.”

His singing is also featured in the rock band he is a part of, “that’s kinda signing by default because no one else wanted to,” he jokes. The band consists of people he’s known for over 30 years, but their first gig was not the usual spot for rock tunes. Every year the college will ask Baumeister to put together music for graduation.

“In the past, it’s been classical music and I have the students play along, and I’ve been thinking wow this is so boring. So one spring I couldn’t get enough students to play so a drummer, bass player and I got together and we decided we were going to play a bunch of Rock Tunes,” so for the past ten years he’s been singing rock music at graduation he said.

Adding on to his rock practices, Baumeister came up with a project during his sabbatical in Spring 2023. To honor a past Bucks Language and Literature professor who passed in 2021, Dr.Christopher Bursk, Baumeister has been working on taking his poetry and turning it into rock songs.

Baumeister also teaches private lessons to several adult students out of his home, “it doesn’t hurt but it’s not the end you can start at any time,” he said. “I have a bunch of adult students and they’re doing it for the love of doing it.”

His other musical work includes two jazz CDs “Useful Music,” produced in 2005, and “Pretty Melodies That Dig That Sort of Thing,” made in 2013. His one song, “Ok, Now What?” was inspired by the moments after his daughter was born and asking the nurse “Ok, no what?” “That stayed with me forever,” he said.

“When the phone rings, it’s that sort of thing,” he said referring to when he plays gigs either solo or with his band. Baumeister used to play at church every Sunday, and will start playing at more of the weddings held in Bucks’ Tyler Gardens since his daughter works for the wedding company.

Besides teaching on the Bucks campus, Baumeister has made quite an impact on the cafeteria section as well. The jazz lover once had a sandwich named after him, “The Jazzy Jeff Wrap.” “I was ordering at the deli and after I was done, a student behind me said ‘You know what that sounds pretty good, I’ll have the same,’ and then a bunch of kids after him did the same.” Eventually, they had a sign in the cafeteria featuring Jazzy Jeff but has not returned to campus after covid.

Baumeister also donated paintings that his wife made which he gave to the college after she passed from cancer in 2015. “It’s nice knowing that they’re there, I appreciate it,” he said. The three paintings on are the upper level of the Science Building.

When he’s not at the piano he’s on his bike cycling around Bucks County, he enjoys using trails made by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. He also enjoys playing darts at the local restaurant and bar, and sharing his chili recipe, white bean turkey, which won third place at a competition in Warminister.