Oswego High School in New York is the only school in all of U.S. Army All-American Marching Band history to have a student selected as an All-American every single year.
What makes their band program so unique?
“We have driven students who work hard and strive to reach for honors,” said Scott Ciesla, Oswego High School Marching Band Director. “It also helps to have excellent staff in the district I teach in, as well as an excellent marching band staff. It is really about the sum of the parts. It’s about building an expectation and atmosphere where students can and will succeed.”
Ciesla said the structure of their program helps significantly with their success. Their ensembles rehearse every day of the week, so students are playing six times a week for 45 minutes each time. They also have a full time brass teacher, woodwind teacher, and part time percussion teacher who teach lessons at the high school for the students.
Ciesla, who has directed for the past five years, also said the program was “set up for success long before [he] started,” crediting teachers like Ed Lisk, William Palange, and Anthony Joseph.
Oswego High School alumna and 2009 USAAAAMB piccoloist Chelsea Bartlett credits much of her success to her high school band program. Bartlett now serves as a Selection Tour Representative for the USAAAMB.
“Our instructors always held us to the expectation that we would be focused on the task at hand during rehearsal,” Bartlett said. “They helped me build the discipline and skills that it takes to be able to learn a show in such a short period of time, like the USAAAMB does.”
Bartlett said the combination of encouragement from Oswego USAAAMB alumni, band directors and instructors, and other band students are what help Owego consistently push out All-Americans.
Ciesla hopes to continue the streak, but said that even if not, it is “always an honor to have just one student accepted, let alone the 13 we’ve had so far.” He expressed his thanks to NAfME and the U.S. Army for providing the opportunity to outstanding musicians.
“I have one of the best jobs, period. I work in a supportive district, community, and have an outstanding group of students and parents,” he said.
“It’s amazing to see students reach for goals and attain them. To be an educator and see your students excel is a gift and a memory that drives you to help each student you teach–whether they reach their goal or not,” he continued. “It’s hard to remember that sometimes, but we can truly make a difference in our students’ lives.”
Oswego High School All-Americans
2008: Heather Buske, Amanda Donovan, Adam Dristle
2009: Chelsea Bartlett
2010: Kristen Bartholomew
2011: Jacqueline Hondro, Thomas James
2012: Gina Bartholomew, Jeffrey Murray
2013: Joseph Bertonneau
2014: Cassandra Hondro, Emily King
2015: Kylie Pelkey