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Golden Apple: Filling Richland County Middle School with the sound of music

In one corner of the Richland County Middle School in Olney, Illinois you'll hear the sweet sounds of Eric Comb's band class.

Posted: Apr 29, 2019 1:31 PM
Updated: Apr 30, 2019 8:39 AM

OLNEY, Ill. (WTHI) - Plato once said 'Music gives soul to the universe. Wings to the mind. Flight to the imagination.'

But for one Golden Apple band teacher in the Wabash Valley, music is not just a passion. It's his voice.

In one corner of the Richland County Middle School in Olney, Illinois you'll hear the sweet sounds of Eric Comb's band class.

To say it is music to his ears is an understatement.

In fact, music has become Eric's voice.

A devotion that has shaped young minds in the small community for the last 14 years.

While most band directors aspire to move up, this music teacher chooses to stay at the bottom, so to speak.

In fact, his love is 'Beginner Band.'

Knowing he is the one to introduce music into a child's life is what brings Eric the most joy.

"You know everything you hear coming out of their instrument is something you taught them," Eric told us. "So to hear them go from making their first squeak on the instrument and some stuff that doesn't really sound like music to at the end, some really fine music...it's a great feeling."

"He just is passionate about what he does and you can just tell right when you walk in he has a love for it, he doesn't just teach it, he loves it," 8th grader Kyle Rennier said.

Eric calls himself an academic.

He studies about beginner band as much as he can even traveling around the country observing other band directors.

He is at the school as early as 4:00 a.m. and out past 5:00 p.m.

All so he can help not only his students but also first and second-year teachers.

He put together several websites, teaching manuals, and even wrote two books on band curriculum.

It is free to teachers all over the world, all to help make music a great experience for kids from the very beginning.

"I know when I was a beginning teacher, if I could have had a resource like that, I would have jumped all over it, so I figured why not be that for other people who need it," Eric told us.

He's made band accessible to every student at Richland County Middle School.

If a student in Olney wants to play an instrument, but can't afford one...he gives them one.

He has worked hard to get several grants from the State of Illinois worth thousands of dollars.

He bought 60 brand new instruments that he lends out for free.

Eric told us all he's ever wanted to do was have a job in this very same room, passing along his passion.

"In 6th grade when I was 11-years-old, my band director was standing n the podium and he said something to the effect of I'm going to be retiring in about 15 years...one of you might have my job. As an 11-year-old, I remember distinctly thinking, that's going to be me!" he said.

From that very young age, Eric said he felt a connection to music, saying he was often too shy to speak.

He let his instrument do the talking for him through his life.

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