West Aurora Band Faculty & Staff

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Dr. Rodney Schueller
 

Director of Bands

Rodney C. Schueller was appointed Director of Bands at West Aurora High School in the fall of 2012. His position includes serving as chief administrator of the Department of Bands, Conductor of the Wind Symphony and both Freshman Bands, and assisting with Wind Ensemble. He is also Director of Athletic Bands, overseeing the operation of the Blackhawk Marching Band and two Basketball Pep Bands. The West Aurora High School Bands encompass 14 ensembles with over 420 participating students. In addition to his duties at West Aurora High School, he is Music Director and Conductor of the 80-member Aurora American Legion Band and serves as an Adjunct Professor in Music at Aurora University.

 

Prior to his appointment at West Aurora, Dr. Schueller served on the faculties of Texas State University, Western Illinois University, and Northern Illinois University. In the spring of 2007, the Texas State University Student Foundation recognized Dr. Schueller as a Texas State University Distinguished Educator and he was named a VIP by the Western Illinois University Alumni Association in 2000. Additionally, he has been recognized as an influential educator by the West Aurora A+ Foundation on numerous occasions.

 

Ensembles under his leadership have received praise from composers Charles Booker, Steven Bryant, Mark Camphouse, Rob Deemer, Donald Grantham, Timothy Kramer, John Mackey, Timothy Mahr, Scott McAllister, Jonathan Newman, Jack Stamp, and Frank Ticheli among others. He has several world premieres to his credit, the most recent being Tender Hearts by Jonathan Newman in December 2020, a piece thought to be the first ever work for wind ensemble and silent film.

 

Dr. Schueller led the Texas State University Wind Ensemble in performances for the National Conference of the College Band Directors National Association in Seattle, Washington, and the Texas Music Educators Association Clinic and Convention in February and March of 2011. Additionally, the ensemble performed for the 2008 Southwestern Division Conference of the College Band Directors National Association in Kansas City, the 2007 Texas Music Educators Association Clinic and Convention, and the South Central Chapter Conference of the College Music Society in 2006. In a joint venture with the Bobcat Marching Band, the Texas State University Wind Ensemble released Fanfare!, a compact disc of live concert selections from 2008 and 2009. Under his leadership, the 2006 Bobcat Marching Band was selected for the first ever marching band video breakout session at the 2007 National Conference of the College Band Directors National Association at the University of Michigan.

 

Dr. Schueller earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Trumpet Performance and Music Education from the University of Iowa, a Master of Music degree in Wind Conducting from Indiana University, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Wind Conducting from Michigan State University where he was the Kenneth G. Bloomquist Conducting Fellow. He studied wind conducting with Ray E. Cramer and John L. Whitwell, with additional studies in orchestral conducting with International Gustav Mahler Medal recipient James Dixon, a protégé of Dimitri Mitropoulos.

 

Dr. Schueller is a contributing author to seven volumes in the Teaching Music Through Performance in Band series published by GIA, producing a total of fourteen teacher resource guides as well as work for the volume for solo instruments with band accompaniment. Additionally, he has published articles in the Bandmasters Review (the official publication of the Texas Bandmasters Association), The Instrumentalist, and the MBM Times. He co-presented a clinic session at the 2007 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic with Frank Ticheli, and co-presented a session at the 2005 Texas Bandmasters Association Clinic and Convention.

 

Dr. Schueller is active as an adjudicator, clinician, and guest conductor across the United States, having served as guest conductor for the JanFest Band Festival at the University of Georgia, Conductor-in-Residence at California State University-Northridge, and as guest conductor with the Fox Valley Concert Band as well as numerous Festival, Honor, and All-State bands in Texas and Illinois. He is currently a member of the Illinois Music Education Association and holds honorary memberships in Kappa Kappa Psi, Tau Beta Sigma, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and Sigma Alpha Iota.

Ms. Patty Sampson
Associate Director of Bands

A native of Joliet, Illinois, Patty Sampson earned her undergraduate degree in music from DePaul University and Master’s degree in Music Education from Northwestern University. After graduating from DePaul, Miss Sampson began her teaching career at Jacobs HS in Algonquin, IL. Under her direction, the band tripled in size in five years and added three instrumental performing ensembles. After leaving Jacobs HS, Miss Sampson moved to Mundelein HS, where she taught concert bands, jazz bands, show choir combo and directed the pit orchestra for the musicals. Under Miss Sampson direction, the band doubled in size in six years and added two jazz ensembles. Additionally, the Mundelein Jazz Festival grew in size and stature under her leadership.

Currently in her twenty-first year of teaching and her tenth year at West Aurora HS, Miss Sampson is the primary conductor of the Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Band and the Before Noon Blues Band. Under Miss Sampson’s direction, one of her jazz bands has been named Honor Band at the Purdue Jazz Festival each of the last 6 years. Miss Sampson is a frequent adjudicator and clinician in the Chicagoland area.

Miss Sampson has been recognized in Who’s Who Among American Teachers five times, Most Inspirational Teacher at Eastern Illinois University and Western Illinois University, Phi Delta Kappa Teacher of the Year, Lake County and was a Grammy Nominee and Quarterfinalist in 2014.

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Mr. Sierakowski is Associate Director of Bands at West Aurora High School. He currently teaches the Symphonic Winds, Symphonic Band, Stage & Freshman Jazz Band, works with all the athletic bands, the Madrigal Brass Quintet coach, Music in America and is the Digital Music Production Studio instructor.  He earned his Bachelor of Music Education from Illinois State University and a Master of Music from Northern Illinois University. 

As a public school band director, Mr. Sierakowski has taught at the middle school and high school levels in Illinois. His professional affiliations include Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and the National Association for Music Education.  Mr. Sierakowski finds comfort in Illinois with his wife and three sons.

Mr. John Sierakowski
Associate Director of Bands

Mr. Kissel has been the percussion instructor at West Aurora Schools since 1996. An active instructor and clinician in the Fox Valley area. He is also a professional performing and recording artist. 

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Morgan Smith has served as the Field and Visual Coordinator of the Blackhawk Marching Band since 2014. In addition to the work she does with the BMB, Mrs. Smith is also a band director at Washington Middle School where she teaches the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade bands. Mrs. Smith is a graduate of West Aurora High School where she was heavily involved in the band program and served as Drum Major of the Blackhawk Marching Band. After graduating from WAHS, Mrs. Smith studied Music Education at the University of Illinois and was a member of the Marching Illini. As a four year member of the Marching Illini, Mrs. Smith served as Squad Leader, Section Leader, and Drum Major. Mrs. Smith was on the instructional staff at Smith Walbridge Clinics where she taught hundreds of drum majors from all over the country. As an alumna of the Blackhawk Band, Mrs. Smith is honored to have the opportunity to work with a band that gave so much to her! 

Coach Z brings 20+ years of experience to the Blackhawk Marching Band. Johnni Zabka, also known by students as Coach Z, started out as a state championship baton twirler from Pennsylvania.  She was the feature twirler at Eastern Illinois University and graduated from there with a bachelor’s degree in education. 

 

Coach Z started a successful baton twirling group at the St. Charles Park District and in 1996 went on to become the head coach for the St. Charles East Color Guard. As the coach of the STCE color guard, she built the team up from one team to two teams. In the fall, the teams performed at football games and during school assemblies. In the winter, they competed with the Illinois Drill Team Association (IDTA).  The STCE Color Guard won the IDTA State Championship in various categories from 2002 to 2010 under her leadership. Coach Z also worked hard to become a voice and to promote color guard categories within IDTA. She became a representative on the IDTA board and helped establish the category of Lyrical Flag as a competitive division.  Coach Z also created clinics and camps for other schools to attend so they could learn more about IDTA, increase flag skills, and understand the scoring system.  She retired from year-round coaching in 2010 and was inducted into the 2010 IDTA Hall of Fame. 

 

Coach Z continued to choreograph for other teams but took a step back from year-round coaching to spend more time with her family. Shortly thereafter, she joined the Blackhawk Marching Band because of a call from Mr. Sierakowski. The Blackhawk Marching Band was looking for a color guard instructor. Coach Z was excited to learn more about the band and joined the staff. She loves being able to work with a dedicated marching band that prides itself on excellence and the promotion of school spirit. She finds working with the color guard members a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

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Mrs. Morgan Smith
 

Field and Visual Coordinator

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Mr. Jeff Kissel
Percussion Instructor

Mrs. Johnni Zabka
 

Color Guard Instructor