Bill Tiberio's work as a musician and a teacher has an impact throughout the Rochester community. You can hear him playing saxophone with his band, or see him conducting the Music Educators Wind Ensemble and Music Educators Big Band based at the Eastman Community Music School, and most of all, know that he has inspired generations of music students as a teacher at Fairport High School for more than 30 years.
Tiberio grew up in Fairport, where he found himself drawn to music as a kid, playing clarinet in the school band.
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.
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?
Every step of the way, things made more and more sense to him. He studied at SUNY Geneseo and then Ithaca College, where he found himself drawn more to teaching as he taught lessons to other students.
Then just a few years after graduating and starting teaching, he had the opportunity to return to the school where he had grown up learning music - now as a teacher.
Bill Tiberio been teaching in Fairport now for more than 30 years, where he conducts the top Concert Band, two jazz ensembles, jazz combos, pit orchestras, chamber ensembles, and teaches woodwinds throughout the district. Each day, he teaches students in lessons and rehearsals, and often musical lessons relate to the rest of what students experience in their lives.
You can’t be a teacher and separate yourself from the anguish of what happened last week, for example. We had a concert at my high school on Thursday night, and we were still reeling from trying to process the news of another unfathomable tragedy in America. We were working on a beautiful piece by Eric Whitacre, the subtitle of which is ‘light and gold’ – Lux Aurumque. And it had been, up to that point about trying to focus positive energy, and kinda turn sound into light.
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.
He is also conductor of 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 - 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.
Tiberio continues to be inspired by the students and teachers he works with, and has encouraging words for others who are pursuing music education.
I always want to encourage young teachers to always keep in mind why you’re here, and keep that core in your thoughts and keep it really close to you. It’s the joy of making music with kids. That’s why you got into it.
You can listen to more about music and teaching with Bill Tiberio here and find links to more features as part of Music in Our Schools month in the links below.