As an eighth-grade student, Ted Malt knew one day he would be the teacher.
Now the music director at West Shore Community College, the success of his undergraduates is at the heart of everything he does.
“I have students from all walks of life and all calibers,” Malt said. “We have a family vibe in our program. We are tight knit, and it brings our community together, young and old.”
Malt has played the saxophone for most of his life, and it led him to Michigan State University, where he earned a music degree. After graduation, the path in front of him was wide open, but a career in music was calling.
His first job was in Scottville, Michigan, at Mason County Central. After a few years he transition to Ludington Schools, where he worked for 11 years. In 2011, Malt accepted the position at West Shore Community College, where he has worked ever since.
At West Shore, Malt oversees the community choir and the jazz, wind and percussion ensembles. The college has an array of opportunities for all ages.
His background working with high school musicians led Malt to focus on outreach in his current position. His mission at West Shore is helping students use music as a means to an end in the pursuit of higher education.
“I have over 10 different high schools involved in my program,” Malt said.
Throughout the year, Malt offers free jazz and conducting clinics to young musicians.
“My philosophy is I want students to get a start in higher education. I want them to complete a degree. Do I want them to be music majors? Not necessarily,” Malt said. “I am not a music major factory. We are in a rural area, and my goal is to get as many students to continue their education through the vessel of music and do whatever they want to do to be successful.”
The community college is home to hundreds of local musicians. The wind symphony has 100 participants, the concert choir consists of 70, and the drum line has between 23 and 24 members. There are two jazz bands along with internships and a scholarship program.
“We have about 25 students on scholarship, and they are all sorts of majors. But they are playing in the ensembles, they are working on tech crew, and they are doing all sorts of great things. I am proud of that,” Malt said.
When advising his students, the prime piece of advice he stresses is character first.
“Music is a by-product. You need to be a good person first. You need to be a good leader. You need to be able to critically think. You need to be able to communicate. If you can do all of those things, music is easy,” Malt said.
Adam Knudsen is the technical director and production manager at West Shore Community College. In 2000, he began collaborating with Malt, and the two have stayed connected ever since. Knudsen has been working with Malt at the college for six years.
“Ted has developed a program at West Shore that encompasses high school students, college students, professional musicians from the surrounding areas and community members,” Knudsen said. “He has a huge heart, and connects well with students. He tries to help all of the students. He will do anything to help someone be successful.”
Knudsen says that Malt never settles for good enough. He is always ready to push his students and their music community to the next level.
“Ted is very selfless. He is really the driving force that keeps this program glued together,” Knudsen said.
“He gives the community an opportunity to experience high-level productions without having to travel to Grand Rapids or Chicago to see those,” he added.
A performing art series is open to the public every season. The next performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on March 2, at West Shore Community College Center Stage Theater.
“We have a robust performing arts series that really works in concert with the vocal programs, the theater programs and the instrumental music program. You’re better with many. Our collaborative efforts that we built are really important to this program,” Malt said.
For more information on the program or to buy tickets, visit .