Music it timeless.
That’s what Mario Butera always tells his students in the Geneva marching band. And if you attended an Eagles home game this year and took in the halftime show, you know exactly what the new director is talking about.
The 101 students from Geneva High School that represent the marching band have put on a couple of different halftime shows this fall that have represented not only some different varieties of music, but some different eras of time as well.
The band has paid tribute to the Motown sound of the 1960s with a show featuring three hits made famous by the Jackson Five. Fans of this group will no doubt be taken back a few years when they hear the band perform the hits “Dancing Machine," “I want you Back” and "I’ll be There,”.
The band’s second show jumps to the early late seventies, early eighties as they take on the classic rock sound of Styx. Fort this performance the marching Eagles recreate the hits: “Blue Collar Man,” “Come Sail Away" and “Mr. Roboto."
A third show picked entirely by the seniors includes “Carry on my Wayward Son” by Kansas, “Touch Me,” by the Doors and “Vehicle” by the Ides of March.
It’s music from a time well before that of today’s high school students. But that does not mean that the younger generation does not share plenty of appreciation for it.
“They really enjoy it,” Butera said. “They have an appreciation for good music and good music is timeless. It can be from any era, the kids really like learning about the different styles of music, it doesn’t matter if it’s what their parents listened to or whatever, they just really appreciate good music and that’s really a beautiful thing.”
The students have an appreciation for the music, but for Butera, the appreciation is more for the students.
In fact, it’s much more.
Hired this past July, Butera, a native of Pittsburgh and recent graduate of Youngstown State University, is in his first year as director of a marching band. For his first job out of college, the Pittsburgh native has been most impressed with the “family attitude” that seems to infect the entire Geneva school system, including the band members.
“There’s definitely a family dynamic here,” Butera said. “The kids really support each other and there’s really a positive culture. I didn’t have to create that from scratch, it was already in place. The kids are great, they really support family and that’s a real testament to the community I think on how people treat each other.”
But being new is also a learning process for any first time teacher.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a lifelong learner and I learn something new about them or about this job every day,” Butera said. “You never stop learning and this is really an exciting time to be right out of college and the best way to figure out a job like this is to just jump in and go for it. That’s the position I’m in. At times I’m a little overwhelmed and I overlook things sometimes. But the kids have been great, and the parents especially have really helped me out.”
Not just the parents, but those above him have given him plenty of support as well.
“I couldn’t ask for better administrators to work for," he said. "They really support me as a new teacher and especially as a band director. What I do is a little bit different from what some of the curriculum teachers do. But the whole school district functions like a family. And I think that all starts with the leadership. And it has trickled down, and it’s contagious.”
It is contagious, and the band members most definitely have been infected with it. And for Butera, that is a good thing, not just for what he hopes to teach them about music, but also for what lies ahead after high school and beyond.
“It is respect, team work, dedication and discipline,” he said. “I want to teach kids how function in life, how to be good to each other, how to help each other out and be respectful. It just so happens I use music as a vehicle to do that just like a good football coach uses football. I don’t want to say it's life skills, but it's people skills. This is what this activity really teaches.
"Whether you’re a musician or a basketball player, or you’re involved with theatre and the drama department, you’re collaborated in working in a team environment. And that is something that is going to really help you later in life.”
Field commanders for the Geneva band are Marissa Miller and Riley Ettringham.