Mr. Eric Combs currently serves as the Director of Bands at Richland County High School, since August 2004. He has both a bachelors degree and a masters degree in music education from Eastern Illinois University. He currently pursues a masters degree in political science at the University of Illinois Springfield. He is the 2020 Illinois Teacher of the Year, and is also the Illinois nominee for the NEA national teacher of the year (to be announced in January 2021).
During the course of his time as a high school student, Mr. Combs was involved in several ERHS ensembles, including the concert band (1996-2000), the wind ensemble (1998-2000), the orchestra pit for ERHS musicals (1999-2000), and the jazz band (1996-1990).
His high school accolades include:
- Sliva Award
- Louis Armstrong Award
- Drum Major (1998 & 1999)
- Band President
- 2000 ILMEA All-State Concert Band
Mr. Combs began his career teaching 6th-8th band in Robinson, Illinois for three years from 2005-2008. He then became the beginning band director at RCMS in the fall of 2008. He also served as the director of the Marching Tigers in 2010. He is originally from Olney, and decided to become a band director in 1993 at the age of 11 while playing saxophone for director Don Graham in the same room that he now teaches.
Under the direction of Mr. Combs, the RCMS bands have earned national recognition. The music department has won awards five times through the "Best Communities for Music Education" program, being named one of a select few top school music departments in the United States. The band program has been recognized twice in recent years by the United States Congress, and regularly earns superior ratings at state contest.
Director Eric Combs was also a recipient of a 2019 Golden Apple Award from WTHI TV10, an award given to five teachers annually in the Terre Haute news viewing area.
In August of 2019, Mr. Combs was awarded the "One Community, All neighbors" educator award from WSIU (National Public Radio), Carbondale, Il.
Mr. Combs is an active internet personality in the band director word, with close to 4,000 band director followers on his various sites. He shares his insights into the profession through his Facebook site, "Thoughts From a Beginning Band Director." He shares video footage of classroom teaching, and lectures about his methods, with other directors through his site, "Sound Beginnings Beginner Band Series." He also has developed and maintained the sites "Band Directors Share," "Southern Illinois Band Directors," and "Illinois Band Director Job Openings."
Mr. Combs has written two books for band directors, one on teaching band camp, and one about beginner band curriculum. He shares these and his many other teaching materials for free with other band directors. He has also been published in SBO Magazine (School Band And Orchestra), the online magazine Band Directors Talk Shop, and has a feature episode on the Everything Band podcast.
Combs also serves as the school district's representative to the IEA (teachers' union) regional council, and is a delegate to the state Representative Assembly. He is politically active, serving as a member of the national Teach Plus fellowship. During the 2019-2020 school year Combs is speaking with senators, representatives, the State Board of Education, and various others to try to draft and pass legislation to curb the teacher shortage crisis in Illinois.
It is our honor to induct Mr. Connor into the RCHS Music Department Hall of Fame on May 2020).