Retiring JTHS Director of Bands Caps 17-Year Tenure at Final Concert

Editor’s note: This story was published exclusively in The Jefferson Chronicle DIGEST magazine prior to being made available online. To receive the DIGEST magazine when it is released digitally, subscribe free.

The energy was palpable and the excitement contagious upon entering Jefferson Township High School’s band room on May 30. This was not going to be just another spring concert. It was going to be a beloved teacher’s final lift of baton in the Falcon auditorium. Director of bands Rich Barrieres – affectionately titled Mr. B by his students – would be retiring at the school year’s end, following a 17-year tenure in the music department.

The room reverberated with the discordant sounds of young musicians “tuning up,” laughter, and an abundance of chatter. Scattered among the students were enough alumni to constitute a small band of their own. These Jefferson grads of varying ages had come to accompany Mr. B in his grand finale.

The high school’s former director of bands, Peter Tummillo (w oserved for 26 years),and 2011 alumna Angela Dench also performed with former grads. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

As the band director moved among the crowd and reached the center of the room, the noise became a low hum. And when Mr. B lifted his arms to conduct a final scale review with each instrument section, there was rapt attention by students and alumni alike. This was to be no ordinary performance. And it wasn’t.

Titled “Band Together,” the evening included separate performances by the jazz band, wind ensemble, and full symphonic band. Brianna Drwiega played a piano solo. The alumni joined the symphonic band to round out the concert by performing two selections.

JTHS alumni and former band members turned out to join the symphonic band and Barrieres in the concert’s final numbers. Among them were William Drake, a 2011 graduate, and Lauren Kulick, a 2007 graduate and currently Jefferson’s middle school band director. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

Following the introduction of graduating seniors by Mr. B, who presented each with a specially engraved coffee mug, band members had a few surprises for the maestro. Expressing sincere gratitude and with obvious warmth, students presented their teacher and mentor with a scrapbook of memories highlighting his years at the high school.

The pièces de résistance, however, were T-shirts – one each for Mr. B and his wife, Merry – emblazoned with the name of the director’s favorite rock group, the heavy metal band Mastodon. The shirts came with two tickets to a Mastodon concert.

Mr. B and his wife, Merry, were presented with band T-shirts and concerts tickets for Mastodon, his favorite rock group. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

As if not wanting the evening to end, alumni, students, and parents lingered at a reception following the concert.

Senior Joel Spiro teamed up with Bill Briggs, a 1979 alumnus, on tubas. (Photo: Maria Weiskott)

In a message to his students, Mr. B wrote: “It has truly been my honor to work with you. I will hold the memories close to my heart and will use what I’ve learned from you as I continue to share the gift of music. Thank you!”

No doubt, Mr. B’s students believe he is the one who deserves most of the thanks.

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Maria Weiskott is a Jefferson Township resident and a forty year veteran of the publishing profession. An award-winning journalist and editor, she served in top managerial positions at numerous business-to- business newspapers and magazines including Reed Elsevier and Fairchild Publications. Early in her career she operated a local newspaper in the Passaic Valley towns of Little Falls, Totowa and the former West Paterson. Following retirement, she launched a “ghostblogging” service that provides social networking update and blogging services for small and medium sized businesses. Maria travels widely with her husband and is a passionate photographer. She can be reached at