Jazz band director and the History of Rock n’ Roll instructor Jim Sisko is more than a faculty member at Bellevue College. Along with his work at BC, Sisko volunteers to showcase local middle and high school students’ music and encourages them to join BC’s jazz band.
Sisko previously taught at The Northwest School then came to BC when he was called to fill the interim position of directing the jazz band last spring. “Based on my experience leading ensembles, [I] was strongly encouraged to apply for the full-time position that was open,” he said.
Fellow faculty member Dr. Brian Cobb, private instruction and music theory instructor said about Sisko that “a person like Jim in this position is fantastic because he is, innately, a personable and caring person who connects with just about everyone. Any time spent with Jim will encourage the student to practice and embrace the opportunities in the music education experience.”
Shawn Schlogel, a colleague of Sisko and the Fundamentals of Music and group piano class instructor, said Sisko “is working to put the BC music department on the map. The performance classes he instructs have several performances and trips. This offers the community a chance to experience our program and to grow interest.”
Currently, Sisko goes to middle and high schools giving free private lessons and critiques in attempts to recruit students to join the BC jazz band. “Supporting our local middle and high school programs and providing a fresh voice for the students and their directors is something that I have always done. Mostly, having an active presence in the community music programs helps to bolster our program.” Sisko said that anyone can audition: “We have students with a wide range of playing abilities in our ensembles.”
“I am excited to have a partner in Jim dedicated to helping us continue to build and grow a [thriving] BC Music Program,” said Thomas Almli, music chair, vocal jazz & concert choirs instructor, who has known Sisko for several years. “Jim has bought into this philosophy and model and contributed great enthusiasm to the instrumental side of the music spectrum.”
Almli said that he has accompanied Sisko to high schools: “This is actually a department model. I have been doing this type of recruiting here for the past 12 years. It is of paramount importance for our program that we are out in the schools connecting with potential students and fostering strong junior high and high school music programs in our region. This creates a win-win scenario for music and education of students in our public schools and our program at Bellevue College.”
“This is vital to the growth of our music department,” said Dr. Cobb. “This type of outreach speaks so much to the vision that Jim brings to our program, we want aspiring students who want to learn and work towards their own personal goal and have fun doing it,” said Dr. Cobb.
Dr. Cobb also said that students need this type of format to know how special their talent might be. “I have come across many hidden talents who are quiet or shy [and] just need a doorway into music academia. A personable and caring teacher can often encourage these types of students to come out of their shells. When they do, the students more often than not evolve into fantastic performers, composers or educators.”
Sisko is described as a great addition to the music faculty by Dr. Cobb: “Jim embodies a unique musical trifecta: He is a master improviser and trumpet player, a highly respected ensemble director and an ambitious and gifted educator. In a small music department, every faculty member needs to be well- rounded, a relentless worker and have love for academic entrepreneurship.”
Sisko said that technology “has and will continue to have an effect on the music industry, but I feel that we need to retain our connection to acoustic music. The concept of achieving a high level of proficiency on musical instruments is waning.”
Dr. Cobb organizes a quarterly concert series called “From the Chamber” which highlights the performance of acoustic music by both BC music concentration students and students within the general student body. “The concert has evolved from a series that focused initially within the realm of classical music into a concert that presents a diverse collection of international and wide-stylistic western music.” The winter concert contained classical, romantic, contemporary classical music, traditional Korean and Iranian folk music, jazz and popular music. Dr. Cobbs’ goal is to offer a venue for serious musical performance that embraces chamber music spirit, which is a smaller mixed instrumental and vocal ensemble with adventurous music within an intimate setting. Their concert will be held on June 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the Carlson Theater.