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Muskegon Big Red Band
Alumni with ties to Music

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Everett D. Kisinger Richard Versalle  Bill Szymczyk
Mark Miller
Everett Kisinger     University of Illinois Associate Director of Bands and Director of the Marching Illini, Kisinger joined the staff in 1948.  Working hand-in-hand with Director of Bands Mark H. Hindsley they "developed the pageantry of the football halftime show in pre-computer times through a system that would be imitated by nearly every college marching band around the country."
     Kisinger was born in Battle Creek, MI in 1914.  As a teenager, the family moved to Muskegon and Kisinger graduated from Muskegon High School in 1931.
While in high school, he attended the National Music Camp at Interlochen, where he played under the baton of Joh Philip Sousa. He attended the University of Michigan where he earned  his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

     A student of Michigan band director, William D. Revelli,  Kisinger's career as director of music included stops in Grandville, Grand Haven and Holland.  Serving as director of Instrumental Music Department for Holland Public Schools, he also served as chairman of music event for the Holland Tulip Festival from 1946-1948.
     While at Illinois, Kisinger and Hindsley devised an approach to chart a marching band's formation.  Using a minimalist model to represent the University's Memorial Stadium, "Kisinger arranged small screws representing each...bandsmen on a scale gridiron," notes the Illinois Bands website,  "and checked the fans’ viewing angle by sighting down a model of the stands. From the resulting sketch each bandsman marked his music so he could move to the proper spot on the field without a special signal."
     The result was spectacular. Kisinger lead the Marching Illini during their 1952 and 1965 Rose Bowl appearances.  He guided the band as the marched in the second presidential inaugural parade for Dwight Eisenhower in 1957. During his tenure he also initiated the University's Alumni Band.
     Kisinger retired from the University in 1976 and passed away in 1990.
     His  son Bill followed in his father's footsteps, served as Associate Director of the "All-American" Marching Band at Purdue University. Upon his retirement, he was honored with a single word addition to the band's famous cheer.

A 1951 graduate of Muskegon High, Versalle climbed to the pinnacle of vocal music, reaching the stage of New York's Metropolitan Opera House. 
     Versalle received his start in music as a member of the MHS A Cappella choir under the direction of John DeHorn.  Performing as a  member of the "Cosmops" - the Cosmopolitan Men's Choir, his rich tenor was well-known in West Michigan.
     In 1976, at the age of 42, Versalle moved to Chicago to launch his professional career in opera.  After a stint with the Chicago Lyric Opera, he moved to New York to further his study.
     A opportunity to join an opera company in Dusseldorf, Germany enhanced his reputation in music circles throughout Europe. His climb was swift, and he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in December 1978, singing the minor role in Aida.
     Returning to Europe, he continued enhance his reputation and in 1992, he returned to New York at the request of the Metropolitan Opera, singing Tannhäuser.
     His career would end tragically on the stage the Met stage three year later.  At age 63, Versalle suffered a heart attack, fell from a ladder and died during the premiere performance of "The Makropulos Case."

Szymczyk describes himself as "a professional listener."  One of the great rock producers of all-time, he has worked with the Eagles, the Who,  Bob Seger, Joe Walsh, B.B. King and numerous other bands during a career that dates back to 1964.   A 1960 graduate of Muskegon High School, Szymczyk joined the U.S. Navy at age 18, and was chosen to become a sonar operator.
     "I guess I had pretty good ears," said Szymczyk in a 2004 article in Sound On Sound magazine, "because in the next six months they crammed about three years' worth of college-level electronics knowledge into me."
     Following four years in the service, Szymczyk planned to attend school at New York University.  While waiting for the fall semester, he landed a job interview with Don Charles Recording in New York, set up by a friend.  Instantly, he was introduced to the music industry.
     By 1968, he had become a staff producer for ABC Records.  In 1969, he produced "The Thrill is Gone" with B.B. King.  In 1970, he moved with his family to Los Angeles, then Colorado, working with the James Gang, Walsh, the J. Geils Band, and Rick Derringer along the way.
     Chosen to give the Eagles a more "rock and roll" sound, on their third album, "On The Border," he continued to work with the band through their career. While he officially retired in 1990 to focus on his family, he  still is involved in the industry, working most recently with Verve Pipe lead singer Brian Vander Ark. 

After graduation from Muskegon High School in 1994, Miller attended Western Michigan University where he performed as lead trombonist in 1995 and 1996 in the Grammy-nominated Western Jazz Orchestra. In 1997, he enlisted in the United States Army where he  participated in special Major Area Command (MACOM) bands.
     In 1999, Miller moved to the Caribbean and played on the "Sensation" and "Inspiration" Carnival Cruise ships, before enrolling at Grand Valley State University. Graduating in 2004, with a Bachelor of Music Education degree, he has freelanced in the Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo area, and has performed with Jimmy Dillon and the Lyon Street Horns, 10,000 Maniacs, Orquesta Ritmo, Big House Blues Band, Evidence, Groove Solution, and Four Finger Five.
  Sound On Sound : click for home page   
Robert Jager
 Gunnery Sergeant
David Haglund
Derico Watson  Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Smith 

 Following graduation from Muskegon High School, Jager matriculated to University of Michigan where he played cornet for under director William Revelli. Jager then served as the Staff Arranger/Composer at the Armed Forces School of Music from from 1962 to 1965.  For the next 30 years, he taught  at Tennessee Tech University,  Along the way, he built an outstanding reputation as a composer and international lecturer, and is credited with over 140 published works of music. His is the only three-time winner of the American Bandmasters Association "Ostwald Award."  His 1984 comission, Esprit de Corps is well-known and beloved.

A 1982 graduate of Muskegon High School, Haglund earned a bachelor's degree in music from Western Michigan University. Named band director at Garden City High School in 1991-92 before moving on to Northern Michigan University in Marquette as trumpet instructor and director of bands.  Haglund joined "The President's Own" Marine Band in July 1992 as a Trumpeter/Cornetist.

An accomplished educator, musician and clinician, Watson is a 1994 graduate of Muskegon High School "where he developed his skills while performing with the Jazz, Marching and Concert Bands." His band, the Derico Watson Group, has  opened for James Brown, Spyro Gyra, Nelson Rangell and Earth, Wind and Fire. Watson has toured or recorded with a wide range of artists, including  with Dr. Marvin Sapp, the Jeff Coffin Mu'Tet, Stacie Orrico, Victor Wooten, Felix Pastorius, Kirk Franklin, Beverly Crawford, Prasanna.  He currently resides in Nashville, TN.


Another member of the “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band from Muskegon High School, Smith joined  in July 2000. A 1994 graduate of MHS, Smith attended Western Michigan University earning a bachelor’s degree in music performance, followed by graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.   Smith has performed with the West Shore Symphony Orchestra, the Kalamazoo Symphony and the Rochester N.Y. Philharmonic.

Ronald Allen, Jr.  Chris Grostic Edwin Moore  Ronald Hannett

An extended member of the Muskegon's musical Allen family, Ronald is a 2005 graduate of Muskegon.  Quickly earning a  reputation as an outstanding drummer and bass player, Allen has played and/or recorded with established artists Lalah Hathaway (daughter of soul legend Donnie Hathaway) and Chaka Khan.

Born in Grand Rapids, Grostic graduated from MHS in 1997.  A math and physics major at Kalamazoo College, where he also played in the jazz and symphonic bands, earning the Lillian Pringle Baldauf Prize as top music student in 2001.  While working as a paraprofessional at a behavioral mental health treatment center for adolescents in Colorado, Grostic performed in the Jeffco Brass Ensemble. After two years, Chris returned to Michigan to enroll at Law School at the University of Michigan. Following graduation in 2006, Grostic joined the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, working as a trial attorney in Corporate Financial Litigation. A 1924 graduate of Muskegon, Moore later served as director of the Marine Band at Shanghai, China.  A former Drum Major at Muskegon, Hannett has served as Band Director at the Tri-Valley Academy, as Instructional Assistant at the Wesley School and as the Assistant Band Director at the Muskegon Heights Public School.