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Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

A second chance
May 7, 2024

Rhythm and reflection


By Jezelle Sergenton

Booming bass, crashing cymbals and sultry snares. Drummers set the tone and a rhythm to live by. Experienced percussion musician and SUNY Brockport College Professor Joseph Chesebro is all too familiar with communicating through music. Chesebro’s almost thirty years in the upstate New York music scene have given him the tools to connect with students 

Musical role models were scarce for Chesebro growing up in the quiet village of Franklinville N.Y.. The young dreamer lived in a town with one drummer on the village’s marching band but aspired for more from music. Chesebro reflects on the moment he knew that being a drummer and performer would be his passion.

“I grew up in an era where MTV kind of took off. That kind of brought music to the people at home and it would play concert videos. I would see drummers and others would focus on the lead singer. I remember thinking that looks like so much fun and knew that was what I wanted to do,” Chesebro said.

The musicians on the small screen gave Chesebro big dreams. Chesebro began teaching himself the drums and soon found a chance to perform. Whether it was local bands or large jazz, Chesebro took risks to follow his passion. Music came with valuable lessons Chesebro would apply to life.

“My biggest setback was me. I had been trying to get out of my head to relax and improvise, but I had a lot of skills. I auditioned for the Brockport Big Band a few years ago, it was a different type of music than I had experienced before. I didn’t feel horrible about not being accepted and learned to be patient with myself. I could not have done anything more in the time that opportunity came up,” Chesebro said.

 Twenty years of music and memories opened Chesebro’s mind to improving his craft. Chesebro began taking formal drumming lessons nine years ago. Drumming lessons solidified the importance of confidence and patience, a lesson Chesebro applies to life.

Joseph Chesebro performing on his drums at Rochester N.Y. Pride Festival. July 29,2023. (Photo Via: Joseph Chesebro)

“If I would have started lessons earlier, I would have learned to have confidence. Music has taught me it is not always obvious what pieces will fall into place, but If you work at it long enough you’ll figure it out. I can now hear notes I didn’t before and apply myself with the confidence I gained from drumming lessons,” Chesebro said.

The confidence and patience Chesebro learned from drumming affects how he connects with people. The All In Brass Band director Tom Allen first met Chesebro in 2018 at a concert for the youth-focused music ensemble Chesebro’s family later joined. In the ensemble, adults work as music mentors for young musicians. Allen has witnessed how Chesebro builds connections through music and mentorship.

“Joe Chesebro is one of the most patient, thoughtful, empathetic, and forward-thinking humans I have ever met. He lets students work through their “What’s” and “How’s,” and helps guide them to the root of their problem. He sees through the first wave of emotions in each situation when others get bogged down in dealing with their personal defense mechanisms. It all made sense when he told me he was a Communication Professor at Brockport,” Allen said.

Chesebro performing with The All In Brass Band on opening night of the Rochester N.Y. Jazz Festival. June 21, 2019.(Photo Via:Joseph Chesebro).

 Students of all majors look to Chesebro for mentorship and guidance. As a professor, Chesebro approaches students with empathy, patience and confidence. SUNY Brockport College Junior Kassidy VanOrder is a sports management major who is enrolled in Chesebro’s Social Influence course. VanOrder was apprehensive about taking a communications course outside of her major but was soon convinced by Chesebro’s engagement with students.

Joseph Chesebro greeting his Social Influence class. Brockport N.Y. December 6, 2023.(Photo Via: Jezelle Sergenton)

“He always asks how we are feeling and thinking even if it doesn’t have anything to do with the course. It is just easier to talk to him because he is an open person. Chesebro doesn’t judge but just listens to his students and offers solutions. He even comes in and plays the piano to set the tone for the day,” VanOrder said.

Chesebro instills confidence in his students through patient and thoughtful listening. Joseph Chesebro has used the life lessons he has learned as a drummer in his mentorship and teaching. Drummers may set the rhythm to live by but in classrooms, professors set the tone.

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