Students learn quickly in studying under Jim Saliny, whether it is in his orchestra classes or on his golf teams.
Working under Saliny means there will be expectations. There will be fiery prodding as he works to draw the best out of his students. And there will be quick and warm forgiveness for the students who show a heartfelt effort in their challenges.
Now, after 35 years, Saliny is setting down his baton, retiring after 34 years as the orchestra instructor for the New Richmond School District.
Saliny’s final performance as orchestra director for the school district will be Monday, May 8, when the spring orchestra concert will be held.
Saliny had one of his busiest nights of the school year March 13, when the school district orchestra concert was held. He had three separate orchestras perform that evening, starting with the sixth-grade group. The combined seventh- and eighth-grade orchestra performed next, with the high school orchestra completing the evening at the New Richmond High School auditorium.
Saliny’s experience in handling students showed before and during this concert. In a room with more than 150 middle schoolers, he was able to bark one command that got the students quiet and paying attention. Once the performances began, he would crack jokes between songs, trying to help the students deal with the nervousness of performing in front of family and friends.
Saliny was hired in 1982 and has taught thousands of New Richmond students since then. He comes from a musical family. His dad was his orchestra teacher. His sister plays the viola professionally. One brother is a music teacher and the other makes violas, violins and cellos and plays the slide guitar.
“We still get together and play,” Saliny said of his family gatherings.
Saliny studied music education at the University of Minnesota. He was hired in New Richmond while doing his student teaching in Moundsview, Minn.
Saliny said he believes the orchestra program is in a healthy place for the teacher who replaces him. With more than 150 middle school students and 60 high school students performing at the March 13 concert, the numbers of the outstanding range of music performed substantiate that belief.
In addition to his teaching, Saliny has spent more than 30 years coaching in New Richmond. He got his start as an assistant for the Tiger boys hockey team from 1984-86, when he became the Tigers’ head coach. He served as head coach through 1997.
Saliny has served as the New Richmond boys golf coach since 1987. He is the only New Richmond coach who has led three teams to WIAA state championships. He coached the Tiger boys golf team to state championships in 1992, 1993 and 1999.
“I never thought in my life I’d win a state championship, much less three,” Saliny said. “The feeder program is unbelievable.”
He said the relationships he made with his golfers and fellow coaches have led to lifelong friendships. Saliny said he hasn’t decided on whether he will continue to coach the golf team after this spring season.
Saliny’s future plans follow the chords he’s played so far. He plans for more golf and travel and he’d like to be a substitute teacher. He’s also considering playing in an orchestra in River Falls. He’s also told former students that he’d provide music at their weddings and he’ll have more time to do that after retirement.
Saliny and his wife, Jodi, are avid runners and he said he’ll continue that pattern. He said he’d also like to spend time volunteering.
“I wouldn’t mind giving back to the county. That’s part of being a good citizen,” he said.