For Mark Jasinski, the orchestra director at Rogers High School in Puyallup, introducing students to music and helping to grow their passion is central to his teaching.
“My goal is to give any student the experience of performing a string instrument,” Jasinski said. “One of the big advantages of being an orchestra teacher is that you can start out with students in fourth grade and teach them through senior year. You can see that growth, and it’s just amazing. When you’ve taught them for nine years, it’s almost like a family relationship.”
After 31 years, Jasinski has decided to retire. He started at Rogers in 1981 and helped to build the orchestra program. At one point, there were more than 90 students in the program.
Jasinski also taught at Ballou Junior High and started the string programs at Ferrucci and Stahl junior highs. In addition, he taught orchestra at many of the elementary schools.
When he started his career at Rogers, Jasinski instantly became friends with Todd Giltner, the orchestra director at Puyallup High School and Aylen Junior High. Jasinski and Giltner brought their respective groups together for trips to Vancouver, B.C., and Victoria, B.C., Disneyland and Disney World.
One trip to Brisbane, Australia, to perform in the Expo 88 in 1988, is still remembered fondly.
“We still have children and parents talking about that experience today,” Jasinski said.
Following the trip, Jasinski went on a teacher exchange with Mark Sullivan, a teacher at Brisbane State High School. Jasinski and his wife and seven children all traveled to Australia, where Jasinski taught for a year at the high school. Sullivan came to teach at Rogers High.
“That was like another degree in music for me,” Jasinski said. “I learned so much in that experience.”
In the 1990s, Jasinski and Giltner partnered to produce a summer symphony, free to the public. For 15 years, community members ages 12 to 80 participated in performing outdoor concerts each summer at district schools.
Jasinski also organized the South Hill String Festival, where orchestra students in grades five through 12 came together to perform at Rogers.
“Mark was very accepting of the kids,” Giltner said. “Anybody who was willing to work at it was welcome to be there and try. He and I both think that way. Sometimes there are kids who need the orchestra more than the orchestra needs them. We’re here to hook every kid into something. Mark was good at getting kids hooked in and being very encouraging.”
Jasinski’s wife, Janene, said her husband set a good example for students.
“He conveys a love for the students and a love for the music,” she said.
Janene said her husband was good at focusing on the enjoyment of music for students, rather than competition. She said that’s what set him apart from other conductors.
During his career, Jasinski taught all seven of his children in orchestra. Most are still performing music today, whether it’s in a career or as a hobby.
Jasinski’s son, Nathan, is a cello professor at Eastern Kentucky University, and his son, Aaron, is an award-winning musician and artist who lives in Bremerton. Jasinski’s youngest son is auditioning for the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
Jasinski’s parents, grandparents and sisters all performed music.
“Music pervades our family,” he said.
Because of Jasinski’s influence, many of his students have gone on to teach or do something professional with music. Yet Jasinski said he doesn’t think much about what his legacy might be.
“If you can leave something behind that’s worthwhile for students, that’s your legacy,” he said.
Starting this fall, Jasinski said he plans to put more focus on his role as the director of the community orchestra at Pierce College. He started there about five years ago.
“I hope to do more collaboration with other groups around and put more energy into recruitment and exposure of the Pierce College group to the public,” he said.