High Impact: Alumni strives to make a difference
By Nicholas Ingram
September 25, 2013
The Benton High School band program in the South Side of St. Joseph is in good hands with its current Director, Jeff Siasoco. He is a Missouri Western graduate that majored in music education and always thought that teaching was what he should do.
“I decided to teach because I thought I would be good at it. Really, I always thought it as the way I could affect the most amount of people,” Siasoco said.
Since he started teaching, the band has gone to Dallas, New York City and Orlando to play in competitions in those cities. However, to Siasoco, competitions and placing are not the most important part of teaching the band, it is the experiences they go through together.
“I don’t really worry about what competitions we’ve gone to, I mean we do have honors. We got a one at state contest, we’ve placed at Missouri Western homecoming, but the trophies and all that don’t mean anything,” Siasoco said. “We’ve experienced a Broadway musical, we’ve seen one of the top wind ensembles in the United States play and been able to experience what it’s like to be a professional musician in Orlando. I think that should be the accomplishments we worry about.”
Along with the things Siasoco has done with the band, his experience while teaching for the St. Joseph School District has been good for him, as well as, the response from the community with donations of instruments to the school and fundraising.
“It really is a good school district in that it values arts more than a lot of school districts do around here,” Siasoco said. “The South Side community has been involved a whole bunch. We had an alumni volunteer group come and help promote the band program and they promote music around the South Side and all of St. Joe. The South Side Progressive and the Benton Boosters have all stepped up and helped out with the band program, with money or otherwise.”
The effect Siasoco has had not only on the community, but also with his students is unquestionable by how they feel about him.
Sydney Hawkins, a senior at Benton and the current Drum Major of the marching band, has had Siasoco as a teacher since she was in sixth grade and has been a part of her inspiration to be a musician.
“Mr. Siasoco has been a giant inspiration to all of us. His dedication to our program, the kids and the community is just amazing,” Hawkins said. “Mr. Siasoco works really hard to provide the best learning environment and to inspire us students to take our musicianship to the next level. His humor and passion for his work is inspiring.”
Carol Hunt, who retired as Assistant Band Director from Benton, worked with Siasoco for five years. While they worked together, Hunt could see what Siasoco really wanted out of all of his students.
“I was truly impressed to see how he really cared about all of his students. He wanted them to excel in all that they did, not just in the band room,” Hunt said. “He really wanted them all to do the best they could do.”
It is hard for Siasoco to pick out a particular moment that really stands out as his favorite or best, because to him, what they do every day is all fun. However there are a couple moments that he feels have affected him the most.
“A couple of moments stand out, our first one for percussion ensemble at state was awesome, the first time the band got a one, but really I think more important to me was the first time the band actually played on stage and really liked playing on the stage,” Siasoco said. “That was a big deal to me.”
He also added how he felt again watching the show Wicked on Broadway.
“When we saw Wicked, I thought that was one of the coolest moments I’ve ever had teaching; just to watch how everyone reacted to that.”
Siasoco is not only an important part of the Benton band and the South Side, but also still takes part in Missouri Western activities.
“I have done the drum line camp for the last eight years,” Siasoco said. “I make it a point to bring the Benton band to the Missouri Western homecoming parade because I’m alumni first, but also because we are in St. Joe and I do try to stay in touch with Phi Mu Alpha.”
Siasoco’s plans for the Benton band are that he only wants to see it evolve more with what it has been doing.
“We’ll still travel, but future goals for this group, I obviously want us to keep getting bigger and making, not even better music, but keep approaching more difficult music,” Siasoco said. “As far as trips that we’re going on, I think the next place we’re going to go is Los Angeles, but I just want to make sure that we experience new stuff and really cool stuff.”