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The Sounds of St. Simon

Music Director, Philippe Moore, is Helping the Department Hit the High Notes

Writer  /  Suzanne Huntzinger
Photographer  /  Jamie Sangar

The voices rise and fall as the choir sweetly echoes the soulful verses of “Let It Be.” The vibrant, pulsating beats of Richard Saucedo and Samuel Hazo escape from the band room, a sign that the students are learning more about music styles and cultures from countries around the world. Under the direction of Mr. Philippe Moore, the St. Simon Music department hits all the high notes.

Taking the lead starting in the 2013-2014 school year, Moore has taken the middle school band program from just over 30 members to almost 90 members and led the 7th to 8th grade large ensemble band to a First Place win at the Archdiocese of Indianapolis CYO Music Contest in February.

With such success, it would seem time for Moore to celebrate.

“I never measure success by the size of your trophy,” Moore says.

Indeed, Moore seems to measure his success by a different barometer.

“My job is not done until I teach every student to have an understanding and appreciation for music,” he says.

He points out that music is the one thing that transcends all barriers and religions.

“You can go to any country and play music and everyone just gets it,” Moore adds.

A musician capable of playing nearly all instruments, he shares a passion for music that he says was instilled in him when he was a student at Wayne Township’s Fulton Junior High, now Chapel Hill Seventh and Eighth Grade Center.

Band Director David Cole gave him a music aptitude test in which he scored high, despite having no musical influence at home.

Moore credits Cole with giving him the greatest opportunity in his life. While at Fulton Junior High, Moore was eager to play in all the bands the school had to offer. By eighth grade, he learned how to play the drums just so he could be in another band. His trademark, though, was the baritone sax, the “bari,” as he calls it.

Moore stood out playing the large brass instrument in an age group that mostly chose the smaller saxophones.

“Believe it or not, I was a small kid hefting this big bari. I became known as the bari player,” Moore says.

Musical talent wasn’t Moore’s only takeaway from junior high band. In fact, Moore borrowed a page from Cole’s teaching songbook.

“I modeled my teaching style after David Cole,” he says. “He was like a fun uncle who wants to laugh and joke with you, listen to you if you have an issue that’s bothering you and be that neutral party that’s there for guidance. He showed us that he cared about us as people, and that’s what I try to do.”

Moore’s passion for music only grew deeper in High School at Ben Davis. Also a talented football player being scouted by several universities, Moore juggled marching band and football. But during his sophomore year, the school required students participating in football and marching band to make a choice of one over the other. Ultimately, marching band won.

“It was an obvious choice.  I just had more opportunities with marching band, whereas if I’d chosen football, my career would have likely been short lived,” he says.

After high school, Moore enrolled in IUPUI to study Psychology. Moore’s father later passed away and the grief from the loss caused him to get derailed from his goals and pursuing his passion.

“I was in a slump and I needed to make changes,” Moore says.

The changes materialized when a friend asked Moore if he’d like to help with the percussion section at Triton Central High School. After a year at the school, the band director urged Moore to return to college and get his degree in music education. She told Moore he was too good not to be a band director. With that, Moore enrolled in Marian University’s music program and got his groove back.

After graduation, Moore began working at Lawrence North High School and Ben Davis helping with their saxophone sections. After a year, a friend called telling Moore about an opening for a middle school band teacher at St. Simon. He interviewed with then Principal Donovan Yarnall and didn’t hesitate when he got the job offer.

“I’ve never worked at a job where I like and admire every single one of my colleagues,” Moore says. “It’s not work when you can say you enjoy and love what you do.”

The students admire Mr. Moore just as much. Many of his middle band students have had no previous experience with an instrument, but Moore gives the students a chance, the same chance he got in junior high. He also makes the environment fun, and the students are eager to learn quickly. In no time, Moore magically turns these novices in to a harmonious band, ready to play for a school concert.

Teaching the kids to learn and appreciate music is only part of Moore’s masterpiece.

“Every kid has a special place in my heart. I want to teach them how to be better people, to be disciplined and how to work with others,” he says. “I want them to be happy with themselves, proud of themselves and have a sense of purpose. If I do that, then I’ve succeeded.”

To hear the magic of St. Simon Bands, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/SSABands/.

About Suzanne Huntzinger

Suzanne Huntzinger has a journalism degree from IU and has lived in the Geist community for 18 years.

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