Bill Tiberio, Jazz Festival staple and music educator, gets his flowers 

click to enlarge Bill Tiberio has performed at the Rochester International Jazz Festival for many years, including at the inaugural romp in 2002. - PHOTO PROVIDED.
  • PHOTO PROVIDED.
  • Bill Tiberio has performed at the Rochester International Jazz Festival for many years, including at the inaugural romp in 2002.
Bill Tiberio is still getting used to being introduced as a hall of famer.

On May 5, the longtime Fairport music teacher and gigging jazz musician received the Ned Corman Educator Award from the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. Tiberio and the late Johnny Cummings were its inaugural recipients.

Though he’s always in front of either a class or a crowd, Tiberio’s humility shines through.

“I get introduced a lot as a recent inductee, which is wonderful and almost a little embarrassing,” he said. “I'm still myself. I'm doing the same stuff I've always done.”
click to enlarge Bill Tiberio received the first-ever Ned Corman Educator Award from the Rochester Music Hall of Fame in May 2024. - PHOTO PROVIDED.
  • PHOTO PROVIDED.
  • Bill Tiberio received the first-ever Ned Corman Educator Award from the Rochester Music Hall of Fame in May 2024.


Tiberio has always played and taught music. He performed at the very first Rochester International Jazz Festival in 2002 with an old group; his current lineup, the Bill Tiberio Band, has two sets booked at one of this year’s new venues, The Duke, on June 23.

He also just celebrated his 40th year as music teacher and conductor at Fairport High School. Once a week, he heads up the jazz bands at both Ithaca College and SUNY Geneseo. And he’s on staff at the Eastman Community Music School where he directs a jazz band and a wind ensemble.

In a word, Tiberio is busy. But he considers himself lucky. He said he bases his teaching philosophy around two simple, generous principles: “I love the kids and I love music. You put those together, and that's what I try to do every single day.”

Performing and educating are inextricable from each other in Tiberio’s life. He said he sees the disparities between which school districts get better funding for music programs and which don’t.

“I really do believe wholeheartedly that music education is for anybody that wants to partake of it, and some kids don't even know that it's an opportunity,” Tiberio continued. “Every child deserves an opportunity to be involved with a very high-quality musical group of some kind that's with their peer level and that gives them good-quality music to perform.”

Jack Whittier, the president of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame, asked Tiberio to be involved with the organization long before Tiberio’s actual induction. The board dreamed up the idea to assemble a jazz group of local high schoolers to perform at the hall’s first-ever ceremony in 2012.

“We were like, ‘Who could actually do this and have the wherewithal to pull a group together?’” Whittier said. “It was like, ‘Let's call Bill.’”


Backstage at the 2024 ceremony, Whittier said he mentioned his father, a former music educator in Clarence in Erie County, to Tiberio, who said he knew him and thought of his work fondly.

“He said, ‘We tried to be the Clarence of Rochester,’” Whittier recalled. “To hear him talk that way about the vision of excellence that he was striving for, I’m not surprised. That’s why he’s really good at what he does.”

Tiberio is also good at playing saxophone, which he picked up in high school after initially learning clarinet. His band, together for two decades, has been working on new tunes that they’ll unveil during their Jazz Fest shows along with some crowd favorites.

“It’s like Christmas in June,” he said. “The Jazz Fest is the coolest thing that Rochester has.”

Bill Tiberio Band performs two sets at The Duke on Sunday, June 23 at 7:45 and 9:45 p.m. Without a Club Pass, tickets are $30 at the door. More information here.

Patrick Hosken is an arts writer for CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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