As if building a new magnet program from the ground up isn't enough, Eric Willoughby has taken on a new role that allows him to stay in touch with his musical background.
Last month, the magnet coordinator at Woodland High School was named director of the Berry College Wind Ensemble, the college’s premiere concert band typically composed of 50 to 60 students, and will join the faculty for the 2020-21 academic year.
"Mr. Willoughby has an excellent reputation as a music educator in the state of Georgia," Dr. Adam Hayes, chairman of Berry's fine arts department, said. "We inquired as to his interest and availability to conduct the Berry College Wind Ensemble beginning this fall. We anticipate him being a great fit in our program."
Willoughby, 47, who led WHS's bands for 11 years before taking on the magnet coordinator role, said he was "not actively looking for a conducting position at Berry or any other school, for that matter."
"When I left the podium as director of bands at Woodland High School, my primary goal was to build the magnet program at the school and be part of the great things happening in Bartow County Schools," he said. "When Berry contacted me with this opportunity to teach one class and still keep my commitment to the building and growth of the magnet program at Woodland, I could not pass up the chance."
Hayes has firsthand knowledge about Willoughby's abilities as a Georgia music educator — a career that covers 25 years and includes successful band programs in Gwinnett and Cobb counties as well as Bartow.
"I have had the opportunity to witness Mr. Willoughby’s teaching and have heard his high school bands over the years," he said. "We have also had some Woodland High School students continue their music studies here at Berry. Mr. Willoughby is a fantastic educator and is adept at working with students from a variety of abilities and backgrounds. He is very personable, and he has the unique ability to care for students while motivating them to reach their full potential."
Willoughby also will be classified as an artist affiliate, a part-time faculty member who has "achieved a high level of artistry in the profession" and brings a "wealth of real-world industry experience to the classroom," Hayes added.
For the upcoming year, Willoughby's only role at Berry will be conducting and teaching the wind ensemble.
"Given his busy schedule with his full-time commitments to the Bartow County School System, Mr. Willoughby will only direct the Berry College Wind Ensemble this fall," Hayes said. "There may be opportunities for us to utilize his skills in other music courses in subsequent terms."
The new director said he will begin teaching and working with the ensemble when Berry students return to campus in mid-August.
The class meets a "couple of times a week" — Mondays, Wednesdays and some Fridays from 4:30 to 6 p.m. — and is a one credit hour course for Berry students, he added.