West Aurora Band Faculty & Staff
Ms. Patty Sampson
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.
A native of Aurora, Illinois and product of school district 129, Greg Hensel earned his undergraduate degree in Music Education from Illinois State University where he played trumpet in the madrigal brass quintet, Big Red Marching Machine, Jazz Ensembles, and Wind Symphony. After graduating from Illinois State University in the Spring of 2012, he was brought on as one of the band directors at Downers Grove South High School in Downers Grove, Illinois. The bands at Downers Grove South enjoyed continued success all-around in the band program. The competitive Marching Mustangs placed in the top 3 regularly in competition, jazz bands were recognized annually at local and out of state jazz festivals, and the wind bands were selected multiple times to perform at the Illinois Super State Festival. During his time at Downers Grove South, Mr. Hensel earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology from the American College of Education in 2016.
After 10 years in Downers Grove, Mr. Hensel found his way home to West Aurora High School where he has enjoyed reuniting with former teachers and the Aurora Community. Mr. Hensel currently works with the Freshman Bands, Wind Ensemble, Wind Symphony, Blackhawk Marching Band, Jazz Bands, and Digital Music Production courses. Mr. Hensel is an active private lesson teacher in the Aurora area and serves on the executive board of the Aurora American Legion Band, a group he has been a member since 2003.
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
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.
Mr. Jeff Kissel
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!
Mrs. Morgan Smith
Field and Visual Coordinator
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.