by Niles Curry
After Hurricane Katrina forced high school band student Endre Jenkins to relocate to Atlanta, the band room of Pebblebrook High School would change his life and music career forever.
Endre Jenkins’ love for music happened way before he arrived in Cobb County, but his passion for musical arts translated from McDonough 42 Elementary in New Orleans to Mississippi Valley State University. There he crafted his skills and two years after graduating landed right back in Cobb County, where he soon after got a job as assistant band director- of all places- right back here at Pebblebrook High School.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Endre Jenkins always understood the essence of music culture growing up by being surrounded by it and attending various concerts and festivals. The New Orleans Jazz Fest, New Orleans French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Blues Festival are some of the biggest festivals and concerts in the city of New Orleans, bringing hundreds of thousands of people together for food, fun and plenty of good music. New Orleans is considered the “birthplace of jazz” a melting pot of the Caribbean and African culture that took place throughout the nineteenth century.
As a kid, Jenkins loved jazz and once the announcement came for his elementary schools first band program, he asked his grandma for a trumpet to participate.
“Band can be intimidating,” recalls Jenkins, “but everybody started there in the beginning.”
There the passion went into full effect, taking private lessons twice a week, where he went on to play in the marching band program at Thurgood Marshall Middle School. His middle school band director asked him to play baritone in the 8th grade and he continued to get better, practicing morning, noon and night.
But in August of 2005, his music journey into high school would transition him in a different direction once the devastating Hurricane Katrina struck, sending him and thousands of others to relocate elsewhere in the United States.
For Jenkins and his family, it led them to Atlanta, Georgia, which was a big hub for many New Orleans natives.
From 2005 to 2011, the aftermath in the city of New Orleans population fell by 20 percent and many which chose to not return.
With Jenkins grandmother wanting his education to continue, her research led Jenkins to Cobb County, one of the top school districts at the time, and still an academically high-performing system.
“I didn’t know anything about Pebblebrooks’ band program,” Jenkins stated as he reflected on coming into the school his freshmen year, “but I gravitated towards the band room because I knew music.”
Under the leadership of Dr. Gabriel Arnold and soon present Band Director Eulas Kirtdoll, Jenkins was introduced to the trombone and played in the jazz band for the first time, reconnecting to his New Orleans roots.
Upon playing with PHS, Jenkins played in the marching band as well as with the Jazz Ambassadors, a group of talented jazz students at Pebblebrook. The group toured Mississippi and Atlanta and even performed with the iconic jazz legend B.B. King himself.
Jenkins was fully engaged in his music career early leading up to his senior year. He auditioned for many schools and ultimately landed a band scholarship to Mississippi Valley State University, where Director Mr. Kirtdoll was a former Alumni. “It’s important to align yourself with a teacher, someone who may know how to play,” states Mr. Kirtdoll. “Be around people who can share music with you.” Jenkins did just that with Mr. Kirtdoll and went on to graduate from Pebblebrook High School and studied music education at Mississippi Valley.
Two years passed since graduating from Mississippi Valley and Jenkins was back in Atlanta, teaching at Kipp Metro Atlanta Schools for 5 years as a middle school band director and assistant high school band director. Jenkins gained skills teaching young kids from 5th grade all through high school the art of music while developing their abilities to learn life skills in the young years of their lives. It’s always been about the next generation for Jenkins and that’s why his passion brought him to teach in Metro Atlanta Schools.
“There are days where you’re not at 100 percent,” Jenkins stated, “but you have to flip the switch and be 100% for the kids because they look up to us.”
Continuing to have this outlook while teaching at Kipp, Endre found an open assistant band director position right back in Cobb County at Pebblebrook High School. He reached out to Mr. Kirtdoll and soon after was offered the position to teach, right back where it all started for him as a high school freshman.
“It felt unreal to be back at Pebblebrook,” recalls Jenkins with a smile on his face. “I’m aware of the role it played in my life, and it helps me be intentional with the kids.”
Jenkins and Kirtdoll know what it takes to teach these students and is truly dedicated to their growth and development as musicians and students.
“Kids need music,” states Mr. Kirtdoll. “There are so many distractions out in the world that aren’t wholesome that kids take in.”
Mr. Kirtdoll grew up in Chicago and moved to Alabama, where he played piano up until the 3rd grade. Going into 6th grade, he gravitated towards the trumpet and played at Francis Marion High School, home of “the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement” in Marion, Alabama.
From there he transitioned to Clark Atlanta and Mississippi Valley State, where he graduated and ended up writing music and worked band camps for Pebblebrook from 2004 to his arrival as a teacher in 2007. For over 16 years, Mr. Kirtdoll has been influential in building and supporting a solid music foundation in Cobb County at Pebblebrook, where they have been recipients of many awards and scholarships for their musical excellence.
Jenkins knows the leader Mr. Kirtdoll has been and plans to add his stamp to Pebblebrook’s music legacy as a former student and leader.
“If you have the drive, come,” states Jenkins. “The band room doors are always open.”
From an unfortunate situation in Katrina to proven excellence in Cobb County, Endre Jenkins continues to triumph above all odds, putting in the work for young band students from various skillsets and backgrounds.
“It’s way more than band,” Jenkins stated as the bell rings for the next class to come in. “It’s about them being good citizens and to take the experience from being a part of PHS band into their life after they leave.”
Niles Curry is a Production Assistant with NBATV/TurnerSports and an upcoming graduate at Kennesaw State University. Upon graduating, he continues his passion for feature writing and storytelling. In his spare time, he loves to travel, listen to music, try new foods and spend time with family and friends.