Faculty and Staff

Music Man

Brian Rollins reflects on 25 years of teaching music at Trinity
Over his 25-year tenure at Trinity, Brian Rollins has left an indelible mark on the spirit of the school. Many of the school’s favorite traditions — from the Fight Song to the Pep Band and Jazz Fest to Cabaret — either would not exist or may not have persisted without the infectious enthusiasm of Trinity’s music man.
Brian Phillips, his colleague and hallmate in the Perkinson Arts Center over the decades, describes his “deep love and passion for his art,” “open, warm and positive manner,” and “high expectations that set an inspirational standard.” Said Phillips: “His unabashed enthusiasm and willingness to put it all out there while leading the Pep Band or teaching the fight song or alma mater to the school always energize my spirits and fill me with appreciation of the many gifts he shares with our community.”
Rollins grew up in Marshville, NC, about 30 miles east of Charlotte, the son of a piano teacher. “Our house was full of music,” he said. “Back then, piano was the social media of the day, if you weren't involved in sports, there was a very good chance you were taking piano lessons, and my mother was the go-to teacher in the town.” Rollins’ mother turned out to be the first of three inspirational teachers in his life that he attributes to his path as an educator. 
The second was Dr. James Glenn, chorus director at Elon, where Rollins earned a BA in music education. “You always knew that you were cared for and that he was passionate about the music, and you knew that he was in the trenches with you,” Rollins says of Glenn, and could easily be describing his own teaching style. “Inevitably there would be times in rehearsal when things would get frustrating, but never let that obscure the fact that we were engaged in a pursuit that we would ultimately enjoy.”
The third? His wife of 30 years, Beth. “She is a hardworking rock of the family. She has multitudes of patience to put up with me and my unpredictability. She inspires me every day with her organization, her perseverance.” 
“Beth was the impetus for me getting into teaching professionally,” says Rollins recalling his first few jobs working on the “periphery” of the music profession as a salesman and even a cruise entertainment director, where he “learned you can do your job well and still get fired.” When the couple moved to Virginia, Rollins discovered music teaching jobs were few and far between. “Music teachers in rural communities tend to leave for one of two reasons: they either retire or they die.” Beth convinced him to go to night school and get certified as a science teacher, which is what he continued to teach even during his first two years at Trinity, from 1998 to 2000.
His first impression of Trinity? “At the time, I found it hard to believe that the students could actually be so happy just to be at school.” After a couple of years, not only did he begin teaching music full time, but the band room was moved out of a low-ceilinged anteroom off the hallway of the PAC and into the brand new basement of Morgan Hall. In addition to teaching band, Rollins was also the choral director and taught part-time guitar. “From then to now, there has been just a quantum difference in diversity of music programming,” he says, quick to praise his two colleagues in the department, Chris Markunas and Kimberly Ryan, in addition to Brian Phillips, Tom Aycock and Rob Short for their steadfast support and encouragement of the music program. 
“If you wake up every day and feel like there is something that you're ready to contribute, and there is an opportunity for you to market that contribution, that is the most important driving factor in life other than love,” he says. “Knowing you have something that you can make the world a better place with. This school has enabled me to do that from day one.”
Inducted into the Trinity Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015, Rollins was recognized for his indelible contributions to school spirit through his consistent presence on the sidelines leading the Pep Band. Rollins has also had the benefit of viewing Trinity’s mission in action through the perspective of his two children, Matthew ’22 and Magovern ’25. “Trinity has a unique environment for students to be free to explore and they know they’re safe. This school does that exceptionally well. We give a place for students to try out new possibilities.”
He credits his students with keeping him young. “The way I get introduced to new music these days is by students. The older I get the more diverse my appreciation becomes. Blake Whitaker ’23 has introduced me to several musicians, like Derek Trucks, Paco de Lucia, which is a reflection of his excellent taste as a musician. I’ve learned that once Blake mentions something it's worth checking out.” 
An avid gardener, Rollins draws parallels between his work with flowers and shrubs and the growth of the hundreds of students who have called the band room a second home. “With gardening you get pretty immediate feedback. By the following season, or two to three years years max, you start to see the impact. If you’ve prepared the soil conditions, put them in the right light, etc. then they flourish.”
Head of School Rob Short says he is consistently “amazed and inspired” by the way Rollins works with beginning musicians. “Brian is really quick to dispel the myth of ‘raw talent’ lying underneath as the primary force behind generating a musical genius. Instead, he stresses love of subject and practice, practice, practice. Brian makes the pursuit of the beauty of music accessible to all.”
For Brian Rollins, the point of school is not to learn music — or math, or science, or history or English, for that matter. “Those are noble pursuits, but they are vehicles for how we become better human beings and how we share what we’ve learned to make the world a better place. That’s the most important thing any school can teach any student,” he says. “We are fortunate that we have an environment here that makes that not only possible but inevitable.”
Alumni reflections on Brian Rollins
Reid Barden ’14
"He would always do whatever he could to make others feel seen and show his genuine compassion for everyone he met. He held us to the highest standards he knew we could hold, but never pushed us beyond what we were capable of doing. From his special "Rolly" doodles when you did well on exams, to hanging out before or after jazz band on Thursday nights to talk about this weird new music we found, to keeping the team spirit strong with the pep band, he showed his compassion for students and love for giving us the support we needed to succeed in school and the lessons to succeed in life."
Katie Cantone ’16
"I took Studio Music Production with Mr. Rollins sophomore year. I still go back and listen to the MP3 files of mixes we made. It amazes me that Mr. Rollins was able to teach 15-year-olds to do something so cool, and I have used the basic audio mixing skills I learned in that class throughout the years since—including in audio production for musical extracurriculars in college and law school!"
Matt Elgin ’11
"Mr. Rollins imparted a reverence for the art of music across genres and disciplines. Whether the studied song was a classical piece, a jazz standard or an Earth Wind, & Fire tune — good music was always equally appreciated without analysis getting in the way of its enjoyment. That balance that I learned in his classes is something that has supported my love of listening, writing and performing to this day."
Andrew Elgin ’16
"'If you're going to make a mistake, make it loud,' is a Rollins-ism that I quote more than you'd probably believe. He drove home that shame and timidity have no place in pursuing something great — music or otherwise. Mistakes can only be ameliorated if you have the confidence to make them noticeable. I'm currently training as a Naval Aviator and I have relied again and again on that lesson to give me the confidence to err in pursuit of perfection. He thought I wouldn't notice that he disguised sage life advice as band practice."

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Trinity Episcopal School

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