January 5, 2017     Jon Linker

The Marriage Between High School & Middle School Band


Cuthbertson NC Bands a Family Affair

Many music educators can vouch for the importance of the high school and middle school directors working together as a team.

Few, however, have as strong a relationship as the band directors at Cuthbertson High School and Middle School in Waxhaw, North Carolina. They’re like family. Literally.

Todd and Katie Ebert are not only dedicated teachers and colleagues, they also happen to be husband and wife.

The Eberts began their current positions in 2009 and the Cuthbertson ensembles have experienced enormous growth and visibility over the past eight years while consistently achieving superior ratings.

“It’s a unified effort,” said Katie who teaches at the middle school. “It’s a collaborative process all the way.”                                                                                                                                                                                               

The middle school has an incredible 330 students involved in music – almost 25% of the student body – while the high school band program, under Todd’s leadership, has grown from 30 to approximately 160 members and now features two concert bands, the ‘Mighty Marching Cavalier’ marching band, jazz band, indoor percussion and winter guard units, and an innovative rock band.

Even if you are not married to your colleague, Todd says it’s vital to have the high school and middle school directors on the same page.

“If you’re at the high school, you need to come in (to the middle school) to observe and help create consistency in the program,” Todd said. “Invite the middle school director up to conduct the high school band. Once you get the middle school person on your side they are going to recruit for you.”

Teaching music is a giving profession. If you want to teach music you’ve got to give.

– Todd Ebert

Todd’s high school program has also provided a boost to the middle school. His high school students mentor and play for the 6th graders and some also teach private lessons to the 6th and 7th graders.

 “That’s been really successful for us,” Todd said. “If you can take care of the kids in middle school and get them to 9th grade, that’s half the battle right there.”

So what’s the Ebert’s secret to getting all those kids involved and sticking with band?
“The students want to be part of something that’s fun and successful,” Katie said.  “Be passionate. That way the students feel a part of what you are teaching.”

“You have to find out what the students are interested in and find a way to relate to that,” Todd added. “It’s important to be able to relate to kids outside of the classroom as well.”

Band Trips

Both Eberts agree that trips and performance opportunities outside school also help with recruiting and retention and are a big part of their programs.

In December, the Cuthbertson Mighty Marching Cavaliers had the honor to perform in Hawaii for the Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary Commemoration events. Over the course of his 13-year teaching career, Todd has directed ensemble performances in New York City, Washington, D.C, Orlando, New Orleans, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Savannah, Williamsburg and Charlotte.

“I try to do something every year to keep the forward momentum of the program,” Todd said.
Meanwhile, Katie brings her middle school band to Walt Disney World each year and has also directed ensemble performances at the Southern Star Music Festival, Universal Studios Theme Parks and the Carowinds amusement park.

“The kids get really excited for the trips,” Katie said. “The 6th graders know in a few years it will be their turn to do something. They plan for that for the future.”
While being a band director can be an all-consuming job, both Todd and Katie said the work with their students makes it all worth it.

“My favorite part of the job is getting to see them grow,” Katie said, “to see the journey that their lives take and the experiences that we have together.”

 “Teaching music is a giving profession,” Todd said. “You’ve got to be a giver. The kids don’t have to be there. It’s not like math or science class. They don’t have to be in band. If you want to teach music you’ve got to give.”

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