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If the last name “Gerheart” sounds familiar, it should. Don and Jane Gerheart have been a part of the Los Alamos music teaching community for many years.
Recently their son, Charles Gerheart, who teaches concert and marching band at Cobre High School won the National Education Association, New Mexico award for Teaching Excellence for 2013-14.
Gerheart, a Los Alamos High graduate, said one of his fellow teachers nominated him, as well as a teacher from Mayfield in Las Cruces who saw his band perform at a recent competition.
“The person from Mayfield saw my band perform at the New Mexico Tournament of Bands Marching Bands Competition about two years ago, and she was impressed enough that she thought I should be nominated for this award,” Gerheart said. His said his fellow colleague had been following his progress at Cobre for the past 14 years.
Gerheart gives much credit to his band for the award.
“We just work really hard for perfection,” he said. “We’re pretty small, so we just try to do the things we can do. We can’t do some of the larger formations that some bands can, so we try to do what we do very very clean.”
The Cobre Concert and Marching Band is made up of all the grades in the high school and membership averages between 27 and 32 members, depending on the year, Gerheart said.
The band competes in a district event in the Spring and Fall. Another Fall event it competes in is the New Mexico Tournament of Bands in Las Cruces, and then the NMAA state band competition in the Spring. Occasionally, Gerheart hosts bands from nearby towns for a competition held at the high school.
Surprisingly, Gerheart, had other intentions far different from a career in music. As a student at the University of Wyoming, he was studying engineering and industrial arts. However, being the good son, he promised his mother he’d enroll in the school’s marching band for one year.
“I had no intentions of being in it,” he said. After a time, though, having joined several band ensembles at the school, he had a revelation.
“Several years into my college career my college roommates looked at me and said, ‘why are you in that? You spend all your time in the music room.’ That’s when I said ‘you’re right, I guess that’s what I really like to do.’”
Gerheart said he plays three instruments very well, those being percussion, saxophone and trumpet. He, his wife and a colleague of Gerheart’s have also formed a community band that play once a week and performs several concerts a year.
As for personal tastes, Gerheart said he like to play just about anything, whether it’s jazz, concert band music or whatever, he said he just loves to play music.
“To me it’s about expressing yourself through your instrument, and about being a part of something that creates a picture of some sort,” he said.
His advice to people, especially students who want to give making music a try, is perseverance.
“You have to stick with it,” he said. “I doesn’t happen overnight, it takes daily work.”
Success in music also depends on moderation, he said.
“Some kids make the mistake in not making any attempt to practice making themselves better, but it also doesn’t take hours and hours a day,” he said. “It just takes a few minutes a day to improve; you have to be patient.”
As part of the award, Gerheart’s school received a check for $650 from California Casualty, the NEA’s partner and sponsor for the Foundation of Teaching Excellence. Gerheart said they plan to use the money to upgrade software they use for planning band formations for competitions and notation software.
The Gerhearts have a long history of teaching music; Gerheart’s parents, Don and Jane taught music in the Los Alamos Public Schools for many years. Jane’s father, Charles’ grandfather was the band director at the University of Wyoming for 26 years.
Don taught music at Pueblo Junior High, Mountain, Aspen, Mountain, Mesa, Chamisa, Piñon, Pajarito and Cumbres Junior High School. He later became Activities Director for Los Alamos High School and music coordinator for the district. He finished his last year as assistant principal of the high school in 1973.
Jane taught elementary band for two years in all five of Los Alamos’ current elementaries. She was then asked to go to the middle school in addition to the five elementaries. She taught a total of 18 years in that position. In her last two last years there, she took the middle school concert band to the State Band contest. They won the middle school division both years.
Of course, Don and Jane both said that they are very proud of their son and his accomplishments.
“He’s a very hard work and loves what he’s doing, working very hard at music education,” said Don.
Don also said his son works very hard to keep the kids inspired and involved. Many times, Don said, his son goes above and beyond. Don mentioned that just last week, Charles organized a fundraiser to help two students who were burned out of their home.
Don said his son has had opportunities to teach at bigger schools but turned them down, partly because they wanted him to focus on just competing.
“There prime objective was marching band. He believes in marching band, but only as a part of the total music program,” Don said. “He has strict discipline, but he delivers a quality product,” Don added, noting also that the Cobre Marching and Concert band has been state champions in the 3A Division for 12 or 13 years. “People’s perception of small schools and bands out there is that they can’t do anything great because they’re small, He set out to prove that small bands could be just as good.”