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Bill Tiberio inspires students, fellow teachers

Music teacher, saxophonist, and conductor Bill Tiberio
Music teacher, saxophonist, and conductor Bill Tiberio

You may know Bill Tiberio as a saxophonist –  he has a band that plays around town. Or as a conductor – he leads the Music Educators Wind Ensemble and Music Educators Big Band based at the Eastman Community Music School. Or, as a teacher - he has inspired generations of music students as a teacher at Fairport High School for over 30 years.  

Tiberio grew up in Fairport, where he found himself drawn to music as a kid, playing clarinet in the school band. His early teachers left a strong an impression:

"I had an amazing teacher for most of the time I played the clarinet, Waldo Woodworth. I was just so inspired by him that I felt that music should be something I should pursue. I wasn’t positive I could be a teacher, and I didn’t think I would have any chance to be an instructor as inspiring as he was." 

In addition to this inspiration, Tiberio  also remembers his path towards music as a sort of practical choice. He laughingly observes, "You make decisions in life, based on strengths and weaknesses. I was not an athlete. I tried that, every kid does. I was a really terrible athlete, still am. So you go with strengths, and my mom always said: you really love music and you’re pretty good at it…why don’t you consider that?'

As a student at SUNY Geneseo and then Ithaca College, he found himself drawn to teaching.  Then, just a few years after graduating, he had the opportunity to return to the school where he had grown up learning music - now as a teacher.

Bill Tiberio has been teaching in Fairport now for more than 30 years, where he conducts the concert band, jazz groups, and other ensembles – as well as teaching woodwinds throughout the district.

When we spoke about his experiences teaching, it was just a week after the shooting that had happened at a school in Parkland, Florida. At the school concert, he said they were all "still reeling from trying to process the news."  They were able to process some of the grief through the music: 

"We were working on a beautiful piece by Eric Whitacre, the subtitle of which is ‘light and gold.' I spoke to the students in advance, and said: don’t we need this today, don’t we need this kind of piece? We dedicated that piece that night, to sending positive energy to Florida and to everyone affected, and to all of us. And to connect us energetically in our pain, over something like that. to connect us, and again to try to send something positive into the world ...

...I think that music should not be separated from the events that happen in the world, that we can heal – at least we can provide some healing in our student communities, and maybe in our audience communities, and send that into the world." 

Tiberio also conducts two ensembles made of music teachers, the Music Educators Big Band and the Music Educators Wind Ensemble. These groups give teachers an opportunity to continue to hone their musical skills and enjoy playing - while also serving as a model for their students.

"One of the benefits of educator ensembles is to have them see their teachers play – and see them play with [each other]. We’re not from our different schools. We’re all here to make music together. There are no competitive divisions between musicians when it comes to what we’re really about - which is to share and to collaborate and work together, in the most intimate of ways. When our students see band directors from around the whole region playing together and working so well together, I think that is an incredible example to them." 

You can hear more from music teacher Bill Tiberio in an extended interview on the WXXI Classical 91.5 website, as part of the series Musicians of Rochester.