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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 Honor Band. Outside of the public school system, Mr. Burns maintains an active private percussion teaching studio out of his home. Many of his 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.

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 has presented sessions at conferences for music educators all over the country on the subject of productivity apps, 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. He actively writes on the subjects of music, education, and technology on his blog. He also produces two podcasts about technology in education, Robby Burns + Friends, and The Class Nerd.

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. Burns resides in Columbia, MD with his wife, Mary. In his spare time, he loves to go rock climbing, play his Nintendo Switch, and pontificate the perfect cup of pour over coffee.

 
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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 choral 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. In addition to his teaching duties, he serves as coordinator of the Howard County GT Junior High Chorus, a select ensemble comprised of the finest singers throughout the county.

Prior to joining the Howard County Public School System, Mr. Dogas led thriving choral programs in a variety of school settings, and ensembles under his direction consistently took home top honors at adjudication. Today, Mr. Dogas is in demand as a clinician at choral festivals across Maryland. Since 2011, he has served as the bass section leader of the Sanctuary Choir of the First & Franklin Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, MD. In 2019, he assumed the role of Associate for Children's Music Ministry.

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. His teachers have included William Sharp, Steven Rainbolt and Suzanne Hickman. He has coached with Ann Baltz, John Shirley-Quirk and Mark Markham.

 
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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.

 
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Ms. Nicole Sobel - Band / General Music

Nicole Sobel received her formal training from Peabody Conservatory, where she studied Music Education and Wind Conducting. Mrs. Sobel holds two bachelor degrees and a master’s degree in Music Education, under the guidance of Dr. Harlan and Laura Parker. Her conducting experience includes working as the assistant conductor for the Peabody Preparatory Wind Orchestra and Youth Orchestra. For 6 years in that position, she had conducted rehearsals with Dr. Harlan Parker and Eli Wirth. 

Mrs. Sobel is the director of bands at Mt. Hebron High School. In this position, she works with threes bands, percussion ensemble, jazz band, and marching band each day. Prior to her time at Mt. Hebron, she has taught band and strings for three years at Centennial Lane, Waterloo, and Thunder Hill elementary school. 

While teaching at Howard County Public Schools, she has an active private studio with students who are regular members of Maryland Junior and Senior All State, concerto competition winners, and solo and ensemble performers. She has coached sections and judged auditions for GT ensembles of all levels. 

As a performer, the majority of her experience have been in symphony orchestras. She was a member of the New York Youth Symphony, Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, Longwood Symphony Orchestra, Peabody Concert Orchestra, Peabody Wind Ensemble, and Queens College Wind Ensemble. Her notable performances have included the premier of Paquito D’Rivera’s Improviacion, performing Tchaikovsky 4, Mahler 5, and Symphonie Fantastique at Carnegie Hall with the New York Youth Orchestra, and performing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with the Queens College Orchestra.


Mrs. Sobel is a member of the National Association for Music Education and the Phi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society. In her spare time, she loves to listen to podcasts and cook.