It wasn't just Roberts' Jazz, Symphonic and Percussion bands that "swept" awards at the Heritage Festival in Seattle last month. Neil Hendriksen's Madrigal, Concert Choir, Men's Choir and Women's Choirs also swept their categories.
This is Roberts' first year at the school, and he is quick to acknowledge the fine work of Hendriksen and orchestra teacher Sarah Jane Thompson in holding all music students at the school to the same high standard.
"It will continue to pay off in even bigger ways in the coming years," he said.
He also credits former band teacher, Brent Appolonie's fine hand in preparing the students.
"Our past bands had a wonderful reputation for excellence," said Roberts. "Brent did an incredible job preparing them. He developed a strong program--the facilities are old but well equipped--and a support system of administration and parents for the kids."
What Roberts did to enhance that effort, what made the difference between being the "school with the most awards" to being the "school with all the awards," he says is Pep Band.
"We got the Pep Band more involved in school activities," said Roberts. "The result has been so positive that they have their own fan/support club that named themselves the 'band-aids.'"
All musicians in Roberts' programs work toward "mastery of the Golden Rule": trying to live and do as they would want done to them; that includes every member of every group and the band director as well.
"I want each of us to improve in some aspect each day," he said. "I encourage the students to take private lessons, to attend music workshops, to practice with me or on their own before school and at lunch."
The level of excellence these students have achieved is reflected in the respect their peers accord them. They receive spontaneous standing ovations following each school performance, are welcomed back after competitions with special announcements and assemblies, and are known throughout the school as "the cool kids."
"There are no band geeks at this school," laughed Roberts. "Just the opposite. These are the brightest, most talented kids in the school. They've been accepted to Stanford, Annapolis, Vanderbilt and received full scholarships to local schools like the University of Utah and Utah State."
Roberts also encourages his students to cross-train in other sports, arts and academic programs. Improved pulmonary function via exercise makes for stronger wind players. Eye-hand exercises on the field translate to improved performance on the stage. A better understanding of color or spatial placement fine tunes tonal quality, presentation and dramatic details.
"Our mantra is: looking to improve nuance--the little things that make a big difference," explains Roberts. "It's our literal mantra and we have polished our performance protocol and added more choreography to the music."
Roberts tries to make the music experience at Woods Cross as fun as possible. In addition to an award winning organization, it makes his job more enjoyable.
"I love this place! This is the finest group of young people I have ever worked with--on any level--in my career," he says. "They make me laugh. A lot! I encourage creativity and a sense of humor. I like their energy."
It doesn't hurt that Roberts came to the school from 12 years teaching at the University of Utah. He knows what to look for, not only in a "certain level of excellence, but in well-rounded individuals."
His vision of the future includes a program with as many students as possible and a few new instruments. A fund raising concert will be held in the near future.