ing of Fire director Jason Wells has taken his teenage
bell choir to national prominence while carrying a full load of regular academic
classes at Tualatin Valley Junior Academy. Though nothing is ever quite “extracurricular”
for the 30-year-old Walla Walla College graduate, his everyday teaching load
includes classes in ninth- and tenth-grade English, tenth-grade Bible, photography,
a publications class—and the school yearbook.
“He wasn’t hired to do Ring of Fire,” says his wife, Heather,
a nurse in a Portland-area hospital. “This is something he just wants to do.
When he chooses the one thing that he wants to focus on and go for, he takes
it where no else would take it, because of his intensity.
“He’s also got a connection with kids that I can’t explain.
And I think it’s because he respects what they can do, and they can feel that.
If they feel someone believes in them, they’ll work to any extent to prove him
“Jason’s had a remarkable musical experience himself,” adds
a parent of a Ring of Fire player. “He traveled all over the world with the
New England Youth Ensemble; he’s played in Carnegie Hall, and he has a level
of professionalism that’s not often seen in a school this size. I don’t know
any teacher who sets the bar for his students as high as Jason does—and they
love him for it.”
“Mr. Wells has really pushed us and helped us see what we’re
capable of,” agrees tenth grader Erica Aranda. “We came to Ring of Fire thinking
it would be a fun extracurricular thing to do at our school, but he turned it
into more than that—more than just playing for people.
“We’ve learned to come together as a group. He’s drawn us
close to each other—the 13 of us are like family. And that makes it so much
fun touring, because we’re all good friends and we all get along. He helps us
meet new people, and go new places. Things I never would have dreamed of doing.
And he’s giving the group so much to look forward to, so much to live for and