Jim Ott came from a "drum corps" family and was involved with the Stockton Police drum corps in 1964 at an early age. By 1968, Ott was arranging music for the Stockton Commodores as well as instructing their brass line. He also marched as well with the Santa Clara Vanguard till 1972 before moving on to teach the Commodores full time. He worked with the Commodores until 1973 and helped them to top-12 status.
Ott went on to arrange for and instruct Blue Devils and Spirit of Atlanta. It was during these years that he arranged some of his best work, most notably “Georgia” and “Chase the Clouds Away.” Not only was Jim Ott a genius arranger, but a devoted teacher. It is said that Jim Ott could get more out of a 14-year-old who couldn't read music than most instructors could get out of a seasoned musician. Ott loved his "kids" and the feeling was reciprocated. He was killed in an auto accident halfway through the 1980 season with the Spirit of Atlanta.
While Jim Ott's impression on the drum corps activity can only be measured by what he did until his untimely death, it is safe to assume that his contributions would be immeasurable had he still been around. His influence is still present in the brass arrangements of today, but many still long to hear the "Jim Ott" sound.