Mr. Robby Burns - Band / General Music
Mr. Burns' teaching experience ranges from elementary school through university ensembles. In addition to teaching band and general music at Ellicott Mills, he also co-directs the HCPSS Elementary School Honor Band. Outside of his daily music teaching responsibilities, Mr. Burns maintains an active private percussion teaching studio out of his home. Many of his past students are now music majors in college, have been accepted into district and All State honor ensembles, and have found success as freelance and touring musicians.
Mr. Burns has presented sessions at conferences for music educators all over the country on the subject of music production software, cloud services, Apple products, and their connection to productivity and creativity in the music classroom. His first book, Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers, was published by Oxford University Press in September of 2016.
As a freelance percussionist, Mr. Burns is comfortable with all styles, specifically including orchestral, musical theater, opera, chamber, rock and jazz. He has performed with the Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre, Opera Camerata of Washington, D.C. and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under such conductors as Marin Aslop and Lorin Maazel. He has also worked with a variety of local music projects including rock cello quartet, Primitivity, and nine-piece funk band, The Superland Stage Band.
Mr. Burns holds a Bachelor of Music Education and Masters of Music from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he studied orchestral percussion with Tony Ames (NSO) and timpani with John Tafoya and Benjamin Ramierez (both former NSO). He has also benefited from the instruction of Steve Fidyk (Army Blues Band) and Janis Potter (solo marimba artist). During his time at UMCP he also devoted attention towards orchestration, conducting, and jazz arranging.
Mr. Nicholas Dogas - Choir / General Music
Nicholas Emory Dogas is a passionate music educator who is dedicated to the advancement of both choral and general music education. He currently leads a vibrant, joy-centered and collaborative music education program at Ellicott Mills Middle school in Howard County, Maryland. In his classroom, Mr. Dogas incorporates an eclectic blend of research-based methodologies, including Orff, Kodály and Dalcroze. He is currently serving as co-director of the Howard County GT Middle School Chorus.
Prior to joining the Howard County Public School System, Mr. Dogas led thriving music education programs in both public and independent school settings, and choral ensembles under his direction consistently took home top honors at adjudication. In 2013, he served as the assistant conductor of the Prince George’s County Middle School Honors Choir. In addition to his teaching duties, Mr. Dogas maintains a small studio of voice and piano students and performs as a baritone soloist throughout the Baltimore and D.C. metro areas. He also sings professionally with the Sanctuary Choir of the First & Franklin Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD.
Mr. Dogas holds a Master of Music in Voice Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal/Choral Music Education from The College of New Jersey.
Mr. Benjamin Denne - Orchestra
Ben Denne is a graduate of Northwestern University where he studied Euphonium performance with Rex Martin and conducting with Mallory Thompson and John Paynter. He received a bachelor of music degree with an emphasis in both performance and education. He received his masters' degree in music education from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Mr. Denne has directed the orchestra program at Ellicott Mills MS since 1998. In that time, the orchestra has grown from a small group of 4 violinists to a program that currently reaches ~150 students in four orchestras. Mr. Denne is a frequent guest conductor around the state of Maryland, where he has conducted county middle-school and high-school honor groups. He has also served on adjudication and assessment panels for Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford, and Montgomery Counties. He has had a place on the music leadership team in Howard County for 8 years and has worked on many curriculum writing teams over the past 18 years.
A conductor of the Howard County High School Gifted and Talented Orchestra (formerly the Howard Regional Youth Orchestra) since 2002, Mr. Denne has taken students to perform at Carnegie Hall, the Midwest Clinic, and most recently the Kennedy Center, where the orchestra performed a side-by-side concert with the top student orchestra from Beijing, China.
For 10 years, Mr. Denne also served as the director of the Howard High School orchestra, adding a second orchestra and doubling the number of students reached in the program. The Howard High Orchestras and Mr. Denne were awarded recognition and won compeitions for performances in Boston, Chicago, Orlando, Virginia Beach, and Myrtle Beach.
Ben maintains a small studio of private students on euphonium, trombone, and tuba, performs with One Flight Up on trombone, and performs as a bass soloist at the Zion Lutheran church. He resides in Columbia, MD with his wife Beth and daughter Katie.
Mr. M. Joseph Fischer - Band
Mr. M. Joseph Fischer, a native of Maryland, has conducted the band program at Ellicott Mills since 2015, where he conducts three concert bands, jazz ensemble, and percussion ensemble. Prior to his appointment at Ellicott Mills, Mr. Fischer was the band director at River Hill High School in Clarkville, MD, Instrumental Music Director at Liberty High School in Eldersburg, MD and the Director of Bands at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson, MD. Under his direction, his music programs have garnered many accolades including superior ratings at local, regional, and national festivals, selection as a demonstration group with his brass quintet, jazz ensemble and wind ensemble at the Maryland Music Educators’ Association Annual Conference, recognition as a Grammy Signature School, and invitations to perform at prestigious events including the Music for All National Festival, the 2008 pre-Olympic Festival in Beijing, China and on-stage at the Joseph M. Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. In addition to his efforts as band director, Mr. Fischer was also instrumental in the creation of River Hill’s state-of-the-art music technology lab, which allows students to express their creativity through music arranging, composition, recording and music theory.
Mr. Fischer knew from an early age that he wanted to be a music teacher. To that end, he pursued an eclectic mix of performing and educational opportunities and finally made that dream a reality. Mr. Fischer earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he majored in trumpet with a further concentration in percussion. He has studied jazz with Chris Vadala, trumpet with Emerson Head and Timothy White, percussion with Michael Gatti, and conducting with Emerson Head, John Wakefield, Sheldon Bair, and Dana Rothlisberger. Mr. Fischer sang in the all-male a Capella group, “The Generics,” marched and taught drum and bugle corps, and conducted numerous musicals. Mr. Fischer earned a master’s degree in music education from Towson University, where he focused on conducting and band repertoire. He continued his studies at McDaniel College where he earned Administrator I certification.
One of Mr. Fischer’s favorite experiences was marching in the Drum Corps International World Championships with the eleven-time world champion Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps. He also loves theater and has enjoyed performing and conducting musicals, including Little Shop of Horrors, Pippin, 1940’s Radio Hour, Cinderella, My Fair Lady, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma!, The Music Man, Thoroughly Modern Millie!, and West Side Story (his all-time favorite).
Mr. Fischer has been recognized for his work as a music educator, most recently being named one of “50 Directors Who Make A Difference” in the December 2007 issue of School Band and Orchestra Magazine. The Maryland Music Educator’s Association designated Mr. Fischer an Outstanding Music Teacher in 2007, an honor that followed his being named the 2006 Howard County Music Educator of the Year.
In additional to his duties at Ellicott Mills, Mr. Fischer remains active as both a teacher and adjudicator throughout the Maryland region. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at McDaniel College and remains active in the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), the Maryland Music Educators Association (MMEA), the Maryland Band Directors Association (MBDA), the Jazz Educators Network (JEN), the Percussive Arts Society (PAS), and the International Trumpet Guild (ITG). Through his involvement with MMEA and MBDA, Mr. Fischer has served as the coordinator for both the Maryland Jazz Festival and the All State Jazz Ensemble. He is also a founding member of the Music Advocates of Carroll County, which seeks to promote music as part of a balanced education and to offer support to music teachers as they advocate for strong programs in their schools.
Mr. Fischer resides in Sykesville, Maryland with his wife Maggie and two daughters Cassie and Ellie.