The Oswego Jazz ensemble performs under the direction of Craig Roselieb.
Credit: Oswego Bands social media

Life can become pretty hectic whenever a teacher goes on maternity leave to attend to their newborn child, and the idea of not being at your job for two to three months can be very stressful.

For band directors, that’s especially true. Ms. Stephanie San Roman, the head band director at Oswego High School, is no stranger to this.

Ms. San Roman has three children of her own, and most recently gave birth to a baby girl this past November. Leading a band program takes a lot of skill and hard work, so having Ms. San Roman leave for her maternity break left a large workload for assistant band director Mr. Kevin Schoenbach to tackle.

Mr. Schoenbach has already experienced what it’s been like to take on this important job, as he has already done it two times previously. So what’s the big deal about it this time? Well, Mr. Schoenbach and his wife were also expecting a child in early December, so this left a void of having both of the school’s band directors gone at the same time. Whenever a band director leaves or takes a break for any given reason, they always make sure to find a substitute teacher who has experience in the music world so that the band program is still able to function properly.

When Ms. San Roman started her leave in early November, Mr. Craig Roselieb started his new role as the substitute band director at Oswego High School. Roselieb previously worked at Downers Grove South High School for 28 years up until he retired in May of 2018. He initially began teaching music with his dad Alan Roselieb, who was Downers Grove’s band director since its opening in 1965.

After a year and a half of having some time off to enjoy himself and his retirement, Mr. Roselieb was now back into the band atmosphere. Not only was Mr. Roselieb filling in as a substitute, but he also took control as the lead director for Oswego’s second and third tier jazz bands, which were previously under the direction of Chris Werve. Werve accepted the position as the head director of bands at Jefferson Junior High, which allowed Mr. Roselieb to take over. Mr. Roselieb expressed his great interest in the music genre of jazz and explained what his experience with the young jazz musicians has been like.

“I love jazz, and especially swing music, so the opportunity to teach younger bands what I can offer them in the way of learning the style of swing is quickly becoming a great gift to me,” Mr. Roselieb said. “Both groups have already had two performances, and their energy and enthusiasm for each other and the music is contagious!”

After about a month of getting used to the band program, Mr. Roselieb was getting prepared to help Mr. Schoenbach and Mr. Frank Tieri, OHS choir director, in running the annual “Crystals” concerts. With the absence of Ms. San Roman, Mr. Roselieb had to fill some pretty big shoes to guarantee that Crystals would still go smoothly.

During the week leading up to Crystals, it was almost certain that Mr. Schoenbach and Mr. Roselieb would lead the six bands together, but of course, this is where the story gets interesting.

Craig Roselieb conducts confidently as he leads an ensemble through a piece at Crystals.
Craig Roselieb directs an ensemble during the Crystals concert. Credit: Oswego Bands social media.

Mr. Schoenbach and his wife were very confident that their baby would be due the Monday right after Crystals, which was perfect timing. Mr. Schoenbach attended the dress rehearsal on that Thursday, so everyone assumed that he would attend. The next day, news broke that the baby was coming early and that Mr. Schoenbach wouldn’t be able to attend and run the four shows the next two days.

Mr. Roselieb, the director who had only been at this school for a month and had never participated in any Crystals performances before, was now preparing to run the entire four shows without the guidance of any of the other two who have been there before.

Many students starting to become very panicked and worried for Mr. Roselieb, as everyone was fully aware of how hard of a task leading Crystals by oneself is. Senior Gideon Horton, a bass clarinet player of the Wind Symphony as well as multiple other ensembles, had some mixed emotions.

“At first I was worried because I didn’t think he could handle the stress of multiple bands plus jazz bands,” Mr. Horton said. “Once Crystals was done, I was surprised for how well he handled it. He did a great job and he seemed like he was enjoying it too!”

Despite any sense of worry that anybody felt, Mr. Roselieb was ready.

“That actually didn’t surprise me because I had been watching all along in case wouldn’t be available for one or both nights of Crystals. As a teacher, it’s always best to hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” Mr. Roselieb said.

While many would expect there to be few errors or mess ups during the performance, he did a great job of keeping the show running.

“Each show was progressively more efficient and musically uplifting. The whole process had a positive momentum that just kept growing,” Mr. Roselieb said.

After having a brief time off to relax from a storied teaching career, Mr. Roselieb did his part in keeping the band program stable in a time where they needed him most.

“I’ll admit my tank was drained at the end of 33 years, but having a year and half in retirement has definitely recharged my batteries to operate at the high levels needed for a program like OHS,” he said.

Even though Crystals was an amazing experience for the music program as well as Mr. Roselieb, there is still work to be done. Mr. Roselieb will continue to lead the band program while Ms. San Roman is still on her leave. This time, he will have some help, as Mr. Dan Valkema, a retired band director from Plainfield, will fill in for Mr. Schoenbach for the next couple of months.

“Every day, I’m constantly amazed at the positive culture that exists within the band and choir programs,” Mr. Roselieb said. “Students have been both courteous to me personally and open to my ideas as a music teacher. I feel right at home with students that come to class ready to work and improve on their music. That culture existed in my previous program, and it is clearly baked into the culture here at OHS.”

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