James E. Estep, 65, of Defiance, passed away on Friday, February 21, 2014, at CHP Defiance Area In-Patient Hospice Center.
Jim was born April 10, 1948, in Ada, Ohio, the son of Jesse and Betty (Iric) Estep.
Jim was a child prodigy piano player and won his first formal piano contest at age 4. He had talents which were incredibly rare, even among musicians; he was gifted with absolute pitch, as well as an ability to transpose music while sight reading. Jim graduated from Ada High School in 1966, as valedictorian of his class. He graduated from Ohio Northern in 1970, and did his student teaching under Doyt Yokum at Allen East, who was a profound musical influence on Jim. He also had a master's degree from the University of Michigan. He began teaching at Tinora High School in 1970, and went to Defiance High School in 1975, where he stayed until he retired in 1998. Under his direction at DHS, the A Cappella Choir became one of the most respected programs in the state. His choirs received more top ratings at contest than any other school in the state during his tenure. He was widely regarded by his peers to be an exceptional choir director and was known far and wide for his contributions to music education. Former students agree, his teaching style was characterized by attention to detail, humor, sometimes-brutal honesty, and above all, a passion for music and teaching that was second-to-none.
He was a member of OMEA from 1970 until 2002, and worked as an adjudicator for OMEA events for 26 years. Jim also served on numerous committees, selecting both large group contest music and helping to compile the OMEA solo and ensemble lists for singers in the early 1990s. He loved to summer in Gatlinburg, where he often played at piano bars and restaurants. He was active in the Miss Ohio and Miss America pageants. Through his years preparing contestants for the Miss Ohio or the Miss America pageants, hundreds of young women profited and learned from his coaching, musical training and expertise. He was inducted into the Miss Ohio Hall of Fame in 2009 for his contributions to the pageant over the years and for giving the Betty Estep Memorial Scholarship Award each year, in honor of his mother, to the most outstanding classical music performance by a contestant.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents, and survived by the thousands of students and friends whose lives he touched.
Calling hours will be on Thursday, February 27, 2014, from 5-7 p.m. at Schaffer Funeral Home, Defiance. A memorial service will follow at 7 p.m., with Rev. Melissa Senseman-Pratt officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts are asked to be donations to a fund to help with incurred medical expenses in the care of Bob Lawson. Online condolences may be left at www.schafferfh.com.