A Legacy of Music

James Guter senior photo '64 James L. Guter ’64 ’68 MA was a teacher who changed his students’ lives forever. A devoted music educator and band director, “he got his kids to accomplish things they didn’t think possible,” recalls his wife Janis. “He pushed them to excel. He used music as a vehicle to prepare his students for life, and believed that a band wasn’t successful unless everyone was working together toward the same goal.” Jim’s band motto was always “Pride and Excellence.”

Jim passed along his love for music to young people, as his Montclair State professors had done.  “He had excellent music teachers with incredible professional backgrounds,” Janis shares.  “He also made many lifelong friends there.” In a letter to President Susan A. Cole in 2002, he wrote “I am very grateful and proud for having graduated from Montclair State and wish to give something back for all it has given to me.”

Helping students succeed was as natural to Jim as breathing. So it is fitting that after he passed away in 2011, when Janis updated her estate plans she established the James L. Guter Endowed Music Scholarship for music students to honor his wishes. She did this by making the University one of the beneficiaries of her life insurance and other retirement accounts. “Montclair State was very meaningful to us,” says Janis. “We both felt it was important to give back.”

Jim’s last job before retirement was Fine Arts Department Chairperson and Director of Bands at West Chicago Community High School, where he directed many ensembles. But “he had the most fun with the marching band,” according to Janis. “He loved the camaraderie and the team aspect of it.”

Jim also took his students to many national and international events, including the Peach Bowl, where they won an Outstanding Band award, and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City, where they won a First Place Band award. These were amazing personal and professional experiences for his students.

Nearly 200 of Jim’s former students came to memorial services in Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey to pay their respects after he died. Some were students he had taught 30 years earlier.  

Jim, who always put his students first, would be proud to know that his legacy will continue to help future generations of music students at his alma mater.

Have you thought about your own legacy at Montclair State? Visit www.montclair.edu/plannedgiving or contact Judy Echeveria Linder ’83 at 973-655-5454 or linderj@mail.montclair.edu for more information.