GREENVILLE — Greenville High School Band Director Erick Von Sas and Greenville Junior High Band Director Brian McKibben are busy interviewing people this week, with the goal of hiring someone at the July 20 Greenville School District Board of Education meeting.
Von Sas has resigned and has accepted a position in Annapolis, Maryland, allowing he and his fiance Chelsea to be closer to their families. They will marry next year. Von Sas said he has been very fortunate to live and work in this community.
“I am going to miss a lot of people here, ” Von Sas said. “But there is a reason why flights cost $100 and I can spend eight hours in a car, because I care about those people. I really appreciated spending time with the parents, their children and the families and have some fond recollections of the past two years. There is nothing that drove me away from here, in fact, it is very hard to leave because I still feel very connected to the kids and to this community. My fiance and I feel we need to be closer to our family when we start our own family, because we want our parents to be involved in our children’s lives. There are similar reasons why kids go to Greenville and live in this community – to be close to their families.”
According to McKibben, over the past two years, Von Sas has impacted the band program in a very positive way. The high school bands are once again on the rise, McKibben said.
“Personally, these past two years have been rejuvenating and some of the most enjoyable of my career,” McKibben said. “Erick’s influence and success here, in Greenville, really stems from the fact he has a genuine concern and respect for others; especially his students. It’s been enjoyable because I’ve been able to work with someone who shared a similar vision for our band program and has similar philosophies regarding education. The shared mutual optimism and belief in our students’ trust in one – another’s abilities, and the collegial support and encouragement we have shared has been rejuvenating.”
According to Von Sas, he was not planning on leaving this year. In an attempt to lay some groundwork for a future move, he ended up getting an offer much quicker than expected.
“It was not an easy decision to make,” he said. “The program is really to the point where it is going to start running by itself. The kids are very energized and motivated about what is going on. They are starting to develop that self-motivation, which is something I try to instill in all of my students. I can say all I want that they need to do “this,” but when they really buy into what is going on, they start doing those things by themselves and it just happens. It’s one of those great things about teaching a performance-based class. We are focused on the end goal, but also on the journey. The process to me is very important.”
When Von Sas arrived at Greenville in the fall of 2015, he knew the goal was to get the band to a certain place, without a road map of how to arrive. Due to he and McKibben’s combined efforts, the buy-in from the students, parents and the administration, the band is in a good position to be successful, Von Sas said.
“Really, all the success the students have achieved comes from their desire to achieve,” he said. “I just steer the boat.”
In his teaching philosophy, Von Sas said he has always been a firm believer in fundamentals, something he learned from his dad’s Lacrosse coaching.
“My focus is getting the students to focus on everything from tone production, scales, intonation and applying them to the performance and to the literature being performed,” he said. “My typical day is seeing the kids for 50 minutes. At least 20 of those are spent on the warm-up and working on fundamentals. Just like any good coach would run a practice; you don’t start by running the most complicated plays. During a performance, if the kids are listening to something, playing along and hear that things are out of tune, they can adjust on the fly, which makes their performances all the more better. In the past two years, the kids have gotten on board with this training and vision.”
To help secure a smooth transition, in the new High School Band Director, McKibben and Von Sas are looking for someone with a genuine personality, who shares their similar teaching philosophy, that student achievement is exactly that-student achievement, Von Sas said.
“I think it is important that the person they hire, understands that kids are kids,” Von Sas said. “Everywhere kids respond based on the concern you show for them in your classroom.”
To the students, Von Sas extends this advice when meeting the new teacher.
“Be open and understand that we are all different people,” he said. “Every teacher is different and different isn’t bad. It gives you a new perspective on things. Different can reach you in ways that maybe I or Mr. McKibben could not reach you. It is really important to find similarities in people, but also raise up the differences. I have had many great teachers that I am incredibly thankful for that were all totally different. You are in a great position to embrace somebody new – somebody that is probably better than I am, somebody who really wants the same things that I do for the program. I wish the best of luck to the person that takes over the position. They are getting something really special.”