Perry Elliott

Elizabethton High School band director Perry Elliott and choir director Debbie Gouge stand in the school’s new music room during its opening a few years back.

Perry Elliott retiring after leading band to four state championships

ELIZABETHTON — The Elizabethton City Board of Education has begun the process of replacing a legend.

In Thursday’s monthly meeting, the board unanimously approved the creation of a summer band coordinator position. The purpose of that position is to begin the process for the next band director to prepare to take over Elizabethton High School’s Betsy Band when Perry Elliott retires as band director at the end of June.

Director of Schools Richard VanHuss explained the coordinator position to the board. “We are all very sad that Mr. Elliott is in the process of retiring at the end of this school year. My goodness, we can all stand up here and talk for days about what Mr. Elliott has done for the band program, the school, as well as the community. He is going to be very, very hard to replace, there is no question about that.”

VanHuss went on to say that while it will be very difficult to replace Elliott, the process has been going on. “We interviewed eight different candidates … we pared the list down to three.”

He said the finalists were then brought to Elizabethton for a tour of the facilities and final interviews. “We are very close to naming the next band director. Whoever that person is, that person won’t officially start until July 1. As you know, there is a lot that needs to be done prior to July 1 for the band. We have a very proud program, great tradition and part of that is how had they work.”

VanHuss said the coordinator position would be a $1,500 stipend for the work that the new band director would have to do prior to assuming the position on July 1. He said that in May and June there would be a lot of things to get ready for the new band year, including developing a show, setting up band camp, and coordinating with all the band boosters.

The members of the school board discussed the impact that Elliott has had. Board Chairman Eddie Pless said Elliott greatly influenced his two children. “My children quote things all the time, the ‘Perryi-sms. He will be missed. Whoever comes into that role will have extremely large shoes to fill and I know you have done a great job in your search. We haven’t had a lot of band directors at Elizabethton.”

The Betsy Band won four state championships in band competitions under Elliott’s direction and always finished in first, second or third place in the November statewide competition.

VanHuss said Elliott not only produced championship bands, but supported the community, working well with head football coach Shawn Witten and having the band serve as “the front porch” for the high school.

One of Elliott’s latest accomplishments was leading a drive to obtain new uniforms for the band. The band and the choir under the direction of Debbie Gouge moved into a new music room at the high school a few years ago.