James E. (Jim) Sparks Jr

James E. (Jim) Sparks, Jr. was born April 21, 1947. A native of Hazen, Arkansas, Jim studied music and served as drum major at the University of Central Arkansas and graduated with a Masters from Southern Methodist University. An accomplished musician, performer, and teacher, Jim directed more than 90 musical productions during 43 years in the industry, leading elite programs in Arkansas, Texas, and Illinois. Jim’s students have enjoyed great success in film, television, and stage productions at all levels including Broadway in New York City. Jim, himself an accomplished performer, also served as musical director and performer for several international cruise lines before returning to Texas. His summers were typically spent as a guest teacher and choreographer at various camps across the country. Just One Voice that touched so many others. Jim attended 1st Presbyterian Church in Houston and was a member of Hazen United Methodist Church. Jim is the son of the late James E. (Red) Sparks, Sr. and Sarah (Sally) Screeton Sparks, and grandson of the late Jerry J. Screeton and Hazel P. Screeton,  and E.V. and Ava Sparks all of Hazen. He is survived by his brother, Jerry Sparks and his wife Beth and their children, Sarah Sparks Diebold and William Sparks; and many, many lifelong friends who became family along the way. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that consideration be given to memorials to: 1st Presbyterian Church, 5300 Main Street, Houston, TX 77004;  Hazen United Methodist Church: P O Box 712, Hazen, AR 72064; or The Staman Ogilvie Fund for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery, Rehabilitation and Research in care of the Memorial Hermann Foundation: 929 Gessner Rd., #2650, Houston, TX 77024. Funeral services will be 1:30 P.M., Friday, May 22, 2015 at the First United Methodist Church with visitation from 12:30 to 1:30 prior to the service.  Burial will be in the Hazen Cemetery.

27 thoughts on “James E. (Jim) Sparks Jr”

  1. Charles and Nancy Higgs

    We met Jim in 1986 at Valwood Park Baptist Church where my husband was the pastor. He played the piano for church many times and shared his talent with us. He was a blessing to all that knew him. He shared his talent with my family. My mother and dad’s 50th anniversary 1991 and our daughter’s wedding 1996. She said Jim had to play for her wedding. He also helped my daughter Andrea with singing and worked with her on her music. Then years later she became a teacher at Second Baptist in Houston and Jim was the choral director there. What a blessing. Jim was a dear friend and he will be missed. He is dancing in Heaven now. God Bless to your family.

  2. Mr Sparks was my choir teacher at Newman Smith High School in Carrollton,Tx for 4 years and what a treasure and Pleasure it was to have him, he mentored me in a way that still hold dear to my heart he never once
    Turned any of his students away that needed help with homework or just simply to listen to them or even at times give advise, he was and will always be one of my favorite teachers that I will truly miss. I have had the pleasure of singing for him and putting on performances
    And most of he taught me never to let any obstacles stand in my way.

    ThAnk you Mr. Sparks for “that one voice”
    Sincerely, Rebecca Ruston Hunt

  3. Rachael Freeman

    Mr. Sparks was my Choir Director at NSHS from 90-92. In that short time, he taught me so much. He personified commitment, motivation, and talent. He taught us what it was like to be a choir family. I have always used my one voice to repeatedly reach for all my dreams, and I know all the other alumni have too. Heaven has gained a very tan angel.

  4. Julie Harding

    Mr Sparks was my choir director when moved here from from Wis and he had me under he his wing and he taught me me so much and loved me he was family to me. He taught me how to dream so big. He is a true angel.

  5. Mr. Sparks was my choir and show choir teacher from 89-92. He gave me such passion for music. He was such a fun teacher. His talent was truly amazing. His skills with music and dancing were exceptional. I am so blessed that he was my music teacher. He taught me so much and gave me so much confidence in myself. He truly cared for each of his students. I will never forget him. He is the reason why I loved going to school. I could never wait to get to choir and show choir classes! May you rest in peace Mr Sparks and enjoy singing with the angels!

  6. Tracie Woodruff Barnhill

    For those of you attending the funeral, the date is Friday, May 22, NOT April 22, as stated in this obituary. We will be forever grateful for having known you, Mr. Sparks. #onevoice
    NSHS Vocal Ensemble/Acapella ’82-’86

  7. I was a student of Mr. Sparks when he first arrived at NSHS in Carrollton, TX (A Capella 1982-1985). High school was a difficult time for me and he was the main reason I survived those years. Six years later (1991) I was traveling through Dallas and simply had to introduce my 5 month old daughter to him. He held her, she spit up on him, he took it in stride. Then he looked at me and said in his very serious voice and said “please tell me you sing to this child every day, she needs to hear you sing to her every day.” Not only did I sing to her, and later her 2 little sisters, every day but I eventually became the children’s choir director at my church. I think of him every day and often during choir rehearsal will think “WWSD?” (what would Sparks do?). Of course, I don’t throw chairs or communicate with quite as much passion with my 5-12 year olds, but I probably do have a vein that pops out on my forehead from time to time. I am also considering studying music and perhaps teaching. Nobody can direct a choir show (because we did not have concerts – we had shows) quite like he did but I remember a few of his tricks. Most import, he taught me how to accept myself for who I was, love myself and never be afraid to be who I am meant to be. He taught me how to break boundaries and change the status quo. He showed me that I was lovable and loved; appreciated and treasured. He gave me hope for the future. These are all things I have endeavored to share with my own children and those I have mentored over the years and will mentor in the future. He taught me to “Reach for a Dream” and know that my “One Voice” deserved to be heard. I have bumped into other students of his from different years (many years after I left NSHS) in my day-to-day life. We have formed a special bond based on our relationship with this man. He is a daily part of my life to this day and his legacy lives on. God bless you Jim Sparks for all that you have given me; I can never thank you enough.

  8. Terri (Synco) Maier

    Jim was my choir director at Stuttgart High School in 1971-74. During that time I was also a member of the Ricelanders, which he also directed. He was a man of amazing talent, personality and heart. I can still see that big smile on his face today. RIP in Jim, I know you’re singing, dancing, and playing a piano in Heaven. You will be greatly missed on this earth. May God comfort and surround your family with love and peace.

  9. Gregory Forster, Jr

    I was a late arrival to the Newman Smith ACapella Choir in the Spring of 1983, but when I did, who knew that this man would make you fall in love with music, vocality, and performance. Because of him and his relentless pursuit of perfection, I know how to arrange and read music, found a love for barbershop and other a capella singing, and countless fond memories and good friends. Jim Sparks was more than a teacher. He was music, and I will miss him.

  10. I met Jim when I arrived at Second Baptist School as the Dean of Students. I developed a great appreciation for the man and the musician. Choir had always been a great part of my life growing up and he always let me sit in with the Baritones and join in when I could.

    The choirs he lead here were fantastic and they were lead by a fantastic man!

  11. Toni LaZurs-White

    I meet Jim when I was a new employee at Second Baptist School. He not only befriended me, but became a true confidant and big brother to me and my children. He is the reason I feel in love with musicals and the reason I still attend them today. He introduced me to different types of dancing and would often come in to my classroom to teach me a new form of dancing.

    I will truly miss him, his smile and enthusiastic love for music and the theatre.

  12. I worked with Jim at Second Baptist School where he directed the choir and the musicals. He possessed that rare ability to make a star and a performer of every student because he saw only the positive aspects of each one. His humor and showmanship made him shine . I’m so glad to have called him my friend.

  13. Sherry Hula McGarr

    I sat next to Jimmy in band at Hazen High School and always wanted to play the saxaphone like he played. He was so talented and I loved to hear him play. He was so good and so patient with me even though I sounded terrible and had no talent. God bless you Jimmy. You were one of a kind. My prayers to Jerry and his family.

  14. Gwen L. Fullen

    Many years ago Jim was the most important person in my life. He was sensitive, sincere, ambitious, and driven. He worked tirelessly for his students and was completely devoted to them. Sincere condolences to his family

  15. Renee Traghella

    What can I say about Mr. Sparks? When you are a multitalented, positive energy kind of person, it would be hard not to follow your guidance, experience and expertise. I was one of the many, eager to learn students when Mr. Sparks first became Choral Director at Newman Smith High School. He “woke up” that department! Many students who would never be in choir, joined! Choir concerts became productions, and they were fun! Packed audiences! Mr. Sparks made sure every student was involved and a part of every concert. That is hard to do, and Mr. Sparks used his creative mind to make it all come together. I am very fortunate to have been a part of the “Mr. Sparks Era”.

  16. Karen Pool Beckwith

    Mr Sparks was my choir teacher at NSHS from 87-91 and he was a true gift. He always gave his time and a willing ear should one of his students need. He made the choir room a safe place we could go before and after school. It was more of a home than a classroom for so many of us. He showed me particular care when my brother was away in the army,fighting in Panama. And when my brother returned, Mr Sparks made it a point to speak with my brother and tell him thank you for your service. I believe he was able to get so much out of each student because he put so much of himself into teaching us. I’ve carried a profound love for all types of music through the years because of him, and have in turn passed it on to my three sons. Teachers like Mr Sparks are unfortunately few and far between these days, and I will be forever thankful that I had the privilege of being in his class. He will live on in each student he taught. Thank you Mr Sparks for caring, loving, and sharing your talents with each of us. We are all changed, stronger adults because of you. I pray you rest in peace , joy, and all your favorite music!

  17. Margo Wheeler Rye

    What an amazing and talented man. I was in the NSHS choir in the mid 80s and will always look back with fondness and appreciation for my experience with Jim Sparks. He insisted on the best and that is what we all wanted to give him. He was there for me when I went through a difficult time, with humor and empathy. I’m sad to hear of his passing but it is temporary…until we meet again, I know he is conducting the most fantastic choir ever. I look forward to that reunion…I’d be honored to join his choir all over again. Thank you for all you gave to me and your many students. RIP Mr. Sparks. You are missed. Peace to your family.

  18. Kristen Dixon

    Everyone who knew Jim, including my non-musical husband, loved and respected him immensely. He made such a positive impact on all those he touched. Jim lived out his faith by caring for people. Our whole family is enriched from having known him.

  19. Rita Hargrove Clinton

    I was one of Jim’s very first students, shortly after he graduated from college. it didn’t take long for our student/teacher relationship to turn into a friendship. Hours together in the car going back and forth to piano and dance lessons, hours on both sides of the piano, trying out new dance steps, auditioning, polishing every detail before a competition, I give Jim Sparks credit for much of my confidence, my “I can do that” attitude, and my recognizing the importance of being an encourager. it was such an honor to play the piano at Jim’s funeral today. I think the service would have pleased him, even though there were no choreographed moves 🙂 Jim, I know you have the angels trying new steps even they never thought possible!

  20. I was a senior in high school at Stuttgart when Jim sent two of my friends to recruite a football “Jock” to sing and dance with some of the best singers and dancers in Arkansas County “The Ricelanders”. I loved to dance and thought I could sing till I had to sing by myself. Jim gave me the encouragement to JUST BE YOURSELF AND DO IT!! RIP JIM.

  21. Claire Haygood Schafer

    I was in the band at Hazen High School with Jimmy. We both played the Tenor Sax. I remember how Jimmy was always in a great mood! Mr Greer, our band director always used Jimmy to midi are me to practice harder & I could take his place. Well; it worked! I became 1st chair as long as I remained in band.
    I’ve not seen Jimmy for many years but still have his old saxophone my parents bought from him…It was my first sax! He was a very talented, loving. & caring person. He gave himself 100% to everyone & everything he did. He will be missed but I know he’s making beautiful music in heaven!

  22. Elaine Velvin

    I taught with Jim Sparks for several years at Pulaski Academy in the 70’s. At one point his choral room was right next to my third grade class room. On some days we would open our doors so that my students could enjoy the music. He also directed my middle school son in several productions. My son went on to make the theater a career. I cannot image how many people were influenced by Jim’s love of music and professionalism. He was a dear friend and a very special man.

  23. Nancy Burnett

    jim will always be remembered for his wit and musicality. I always remember him with a big smile and a sparkle in his eye. He will be missed.

  24. Amy Parker Cook

    Jim Sparks was my choir director at Newman Smith HS 1984- -1988. He changed my life! He saw potential in me that I couldn’t see in myself. He was a source of encouragement and inspiration and thanks to him I was able to achieve things I never thought possible. I know many of his former students share my sentiments. I am still singing and I continue to use what he taught me so many years ago. Jim was such an amazing teacher! I have expressed my gratitude to him many times before, but it never hurts to say it again, thank you so much Mr. Sparks! Rest in peace my sweet friend.

  25. Beth Ann Greer Byrd

    i had not seen Jimmy in many years but have great memories of his exceptional talents !!! He was a very gifted man & shared his talents with others. I took a young lady to Dallas when he was living there for his help with her talent presentation in the Miss Arkansas Pageant.
    I grew up in Des Arc and our grandparents were friends. Then my mother was friends with his parents. Life long Prairie County connections are the best !!!
    Jerry, my condolences to you and your family. I’m sorry I have just learned of Jim’s passing or I would have come to the service.

    Beth Greer Byrd

  26. The first thing that happens when I hear Jim’s name is I break into a huge smile! Jim was not only talented, as is clearly evidenced by his many students’ comments, but he also had an incredible zest for life, friendship and laughter. I worked with Jim at SBS and enjoyed every minute in his presence. I know he was away from his family much of the time, but I want them to know he was truly loved by his Houston family, which included two schools and a church. It was an honor to be counted as one of his friends! Whenever you would meet someone who also knew Jim, the conversation was immediately joyful and humorous. We loved him very much, and he will continue to live in all of our hearts. There will be beautiful singing and laughter in Heaven!

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