Dzbenski brings diversity to FSCC music program

Thursday, October 24, 2013
Matthew Resnick/Tribune photo Michael Dzbenski is the new band instructor at Fort Scott Community College.

Michael Dzbenski has a love for 90's techno music, his favorite musician is Billy Joel, and he loves sharing his passion for music with his students.

Dzbenski is one of Fort Scott Community College's newest faculty members. Originally from Bayonne, N.J., Dzbenski has moved around frequently. Aside from living in New Jersey, he has spent time residing in Chicago, Houston, the Washington D.C. area, and most recently Austin, Texas. Dzbenski's specialty is voice. However, he also plays low brass instruments, trombone and euphonium, as well as percussion, guitar and bass.

While in Austin, Dzbenski taught at St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School, which opened in 2009. He was also tasked with overseeing the school's music program, which Dzbenski was largely responsible for building from the ground floor.

"That was probably one of my most fruitful teaching experiences because I got to start the program from scratch," Dzbenski said. "The school was brand new and I was the first music director there. It's a private Catholic high school, grades nine through 12. We started with the ninth and tenth grade classes, then as they graduated, we added freshmen every year."

While at St. Dominic Savio, the school's instrumental music program was awarded the title of state champions for three consecutive years (2011-13) according to a school press release. The release also said the school's symphony band and orchestra was given a "superior" rating for their on-stage performance.

"It was a big job because I was doing the band program, the choir program, the orchestra program, basically the entire music program was officially mine," Dzbenski said. "I had a lot of students which really helped out a lot. But we got a lot done for being such a small school, and with such a diverse population."

Dzbenski said he decided to leave the school because he wanted to pursue his dream of teaching at the college level, which brought him to the FSCC campus in August.

"This is a great step in my career," Dzbenski said. "I just finished my master's degree last summer. This is one of the jobs that opened up, and luckily I got it."

Dzbenski received his undergraduate degree in 2005, a Bachelor of Arts in Music, from George Mason University. He also attended Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Va., as well as Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. Dzbenski received a Master of Music Education from Texas Tech University in 2012.

Dzbenski said so far he has enjoyed many aspects of his current job duties at FSCC.

"I really like marching band," Dzbenski said. "I haven't done that in a while and I just think it's kind of cool to be the band director. I really like doing a lot of different things. Basically, wherever I'm useful and wherever I have at least somewhat of an expertise, I can really help out and really work well with the program. I really like a lot of the faculty members I've met here. That's probably the best part of the job is I really like the people I work with. Everyone seems really nice, and what's great is the students are super hard working. And that's probably one of the best parts about teaching at a college. The students are really working hard towards their goals."

Dzbenski said the band is his major responsibility. However, he also teaches a variety of music courses including music appreciation, music theory and ear training. Currently Dzbenski teaches nine classes totaling 18 credit hours. Next semester, he will be adding an additional guitar class, bringing the total to 21 credit hours. Earlier this month, Dzbenski and FSCC faculty member Sarah Mae Blew, performed during the Nancy Kassebaum banquet at the Ellis Fine Arts Center.

"We have an event coming up this Thursday (the Legislative Bus Tour) where I have students that are going to be performing," Dzbenski said. "I have vocalists and instrumentalists that are going to come and provide a little background music before the dinner. Which is really cool because I like to have my students do a lot of stuff outside of just being in band, and outside of doing just one thing. I actually like to get them gigging and doing cool stuff like that."

Dzbenski said he has had many excellent and inspirational music teachers dating back to his middle school days, when he was interested in both theatre and band.

"In college I had a really awesome choir director, who gave me so many opportunities to perform whether it was solo or in choir," Dzbenski said. "I was able to perform because of my teacher, with the Washington chorus, which is a huge deal. I've just had really great teachers along the way who have provided really great opportunities. And that's what I try to do here with my students. I try to give them as many opportunities to perform as humanly possible."

Dzbenski said he has big plans for the FSCC music program and wants to get it "rocking and rolling." He emphasizes to his students the importance of hard work in order to have a successful career in music.

"I tell my students music is very hard, but it's also very fruitful," Dzbenski said. "And it can be a lot of fun, but the hard work is also really a big part of it. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience, but eventually anyone can really succeed in music if they have the drive and if they have talent and if they're really willing to stick it out."

Dzbenski said he plans on getting his doctorate in either music technology, educational technology or in high education teaching.

"Right now I'm looking for the right program," Dzbenski said. "I eventually want to teach at a university or an upper-level school."