Music Man marching on
During an after school lesson Wednesday afternoon, Bradley Mariska helped one of his students with a difficult section of concert music. Playing alongside the student with an instrument of his own, they work through the song bit by bit to assure he understands it.
But after four years of coming in early, staying late and dedicating himself to the program, Mariska will step down as band director at Austin High School and take a new job as co-band director at Farmington High School.
“It’s hard to believe four years have passed already,” Mariska said.
Mariska started at AHS in 2012 with big plans for the band program.
He wanted to get more involved in the community with more pep band performances, recreating the jazz bands and increasing the overall enthusiasm of the bands.
“Playing an instrument can be one of the best parts of a middle school or high school experience,” Mariska said. “I tried to make the program accessible to all students. There is a spot in band for everyone.”
During his time at AHS, he added an intermediate Symphonic Band, three jazz bands, a jazz ensemble and brought the pep band to numerous sporting events to perform, including hockey and cross country.
Junior Christine Nelson has enjoyed having Mariska as a teacher the last three years in class and jazz band. She said Mariska teaches not only lessons about band, but life lessons as well.
“Every day is a good memory with him,” she said. “He tries to make every day a great day with his attitude.”
Christine has been an active member of the band since she joined in fifth grade. She’s appreciative that he brought enthusiasm and jazz ensembles back to the program.
“He has inspired so many kids to be in band,” she said.
Participation in the high school bands has increased greatly not only at the high school level over the past four years, but districtwide as well, according to Mariska.
“Overall, [the total number of students in band] has almost doubled,” he said.
Among his favorite memories are attending the Minnesota Music Educators Association midwinter clinic in 2013, trips to state basketball to play pep band, and the trip to New York City last spring.
“It’s impossible to choose a single favorite memory,” Mariska said.
For Mariska, leaving AHS came down to a number of professional and personal reasons.
“I wanted to take the opportunity to be at a larger school with a larger band program,” he said.
At Farmington High School, he will direct two intermediate bands and co-direct the jazz bands, as well as the competitive marching band. According to Mariska, he is excited to collaborate with another band director and have the ability to share the tasks together.
“It will be a great learning experience to see another band director in action,” he said.
While he’s excited to move to a larger town, he will miss the pride of the Austin community.
“Austin is still a small town and there is a level of community support you lose when join go to a larger town. People don’t connect as much or get as involved with the bands at larger schools,” Mariska said. “[Here in Austin], people who don’t have kids in band, choir or orchestra still come to the concerts.”
The school has begun to search for a replacement but have not selected a new director yet.