An Extensive Interview with Instrumental Music Instructor, Mr. Grillo

by Jennifer Mitchell

The Rumson Fair Haven music department just got two tones sweeter.  For the 2009-2010 school year, RFH welcomed teachers Bill Grillo and Vincent Mottern.   Mr. Grillo is the new Instrumental Music teacher, and Mr. Mottern is the new Vocal instructor.

The RFH music department is comprised of three classes including symphonic band, string ensemble, and Tower Singers. In addition, there are a number of after-school performance ensembles ,such as the RFH Marching Band and the jazz band.  This combination of courses and activities offers many students the opportunity to be involved in music.

“If a particular student is not interested in performing in an ensemble, but still has a passion to learn more about the art as an aesthetic exploration.” commented Mr. Grillo.  This truly ensures that RFH has a wide spectrum in keeping the sanctity of electives for students who do not have a passion for the symphonic band, string ensemble, Tower Singers, or after school ensembles. The RFH curriculum offers a true variety of musical courses and electives, while maintaining the musical presence they give to an extra curricular environment.

However, it is very apparent that it is not only the students who have a passion for music.  It was at the early age of five when Mr. Grillo first developed an interest in musical arts. He would watch his father play the drums, so naturally he chose percussion as his primary instrument. When he entered middle school, he realized he wanted to teach others the craft of music. He was inspired by his mentor, Dr. Robert Brosh, from the University of the Arts.

“He has been my mentor for over 10 years and he really pushed me to explore music from all around the world. He stressed that I should be proficient in the musical styles of Africa, Cuba, Brazil, the European nations and of course, music of our own culture in the United States, so that I would become a more complete and smart percussionist,” said Mr. Grillo.

Mr. Grilllo’s high school years were a source of inspiration for him when he attended the Governor’s School of the Arts in New Jersey.  This also allowed him to perform with the New Jersey All State Jazz Band and the Tri-State Grammy Big Band in Philadelphia.

”These experiences lead me to decide that music was my life and I would perform for the rest of my life,” states Mr. Grillo.

After high school Mr. Grillo attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he completed his Bachelors Degree in Jazz Performance and a Masters in Music Education.  Now he is currently in his fifth month as a music instructor at RFH, and already the falls are ringing clear with the sweet sound of music.  As a young teacher, Mr. Grillo continues to be excited about what lies ahead, as well as to be working at a school like RFH.

“The education I received at [the University of the Arts]  was extremely valuable in that I was able to continue studying music of all styles from all cultures. My teaching experience has only just begun and my goal is to become a more effective music educator every day. I have to thank RFH for giving me that opportunity.”

When asked about his teaching philosophy and the way in which he chooses to teach and mentor students, Mr. Grillo argued that musicians are often their own worst critics.  Through the RFH Marching Band competitions and concernts, he concludes that students  become better instrumental performers by their own failures and successes.

“The students found out the areas they need to improve, and more importantly, I found the areas that I need to improve as a director.”

This statement reflects Mr. Grillo’s ambition and perseverance in strengthening the music program, as well as that of the students he teachers.  Every student that contributes in the band alongside Mr. Grillo takes on rigorous weekly practices and rehearsals.

“Any band can come in during the week and work hard, but it comes down to the execution. I am honest with all my ensembles. I tell them they work too hard and are too talented to not execute what I hear them do in rehearsal. The students are given every tool to put on a great performance. Up to this point, they have yet to disappoint.”

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