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About Us

The China Spring Cougar Band is an award-winning program, completing its 32nd consecutive year of UIL Sweepstakes (First Division in UIL Marching, Concert, and Sight-Reading contests).

The band is most known for its history of excellence which was established back in 1987 under the direction of Herb Brenner.  The band has been to the UIL State Marching contest in 1991 (finalist), 1993 (finalist), 1994, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2010, 2012 (finalist), 2016 (finalist), 2018, 2020 (finalist), and 2021 (finalist)! In 2016 the China Spring Marching Band appeared in the London New Year's Day Parade and performed in the London Concert Gala.

Off the field, the China Spring Band program consists of three High School Concert Bands, two Middle School Concert Bands, two High School Jazz Bands, two Middle School Jazz Bands, as well as sixth-grade beginner instrument classes.

The 2022-2023 Cougar Band is composed of 167 students.  Students have been actively involved in individual competitions as well as a full band.  The directors stress the importance of individual strength by encouraging students to try out for Region bands, Solo and Ensemble, Central Texas Youth Wind Ensemble, Waco Youth Symphony, Baylor Honor Flutes, and International Honor Band



Marc Nichelson
Director of Bands

A graduate of Brownsboro High School, Mr. Nichelson received his Associate of Arts in Music from Tyler Junior College and his Bachelor of Arts from Stephen F. Austin State University intending to pursue a career as a Band Director.


After college, he served as the 7th-grade director for Hallsville ISD. Later he accepted a position at Wortham ISD (a small school in Central Texas), where he spent four years as the Director of Bands and Technology. During his time, the program grew and saw great success both in marching and concert season. Mr. Nichelson currently serves as the Director of Bands for China Spring ISD, where he heads up the Marching Band, directs the Wind Ensemble, the Jazz I ensemble, and teaches AP Music Theory. 


Mr. Nichelson also serves as the ATSSB Region 8 Coordinator, ATSSB Area Central Coordinator, the ATSSB Webmaster, and the ATSSB 4A State Representative. In these roles, he finds that he can give back to an organization that meant so much to him (as a student) and to many of the small school band students he has interacted with throughout his career. His professional affiliations include the Association of Texas Small School Bands, Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, and Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity.


Outside of his teaching career, he currently runs Penson Media Technologies as a side business to his education career and still performs with local bands. Outside of work, he enjoys being outdoors and spending time with his wife Jessica, their son Ben, daughter Jenna, and their two dogs. ​

Joshua Ready
High School Assistant Director


Mr. Ready is a native to the Waco area and an alumni of China Spring High School.  The band program at CSHS is where he discovered his passion for music and desire to be a positive influence to others, so he set this as a goal for his career.  After graduating high school he went on to receive an Associate of Arts degree from McLennan Community College and a Bachelor of Music from Tarleton State University.


While in college, Mr. Ready served in Kappa Kappa Psi, band service fraternity, where he assisted with many tasks to keep the band program running smoothly.  Also while at Tarleton he had the opportunity to travel to Carnegie Hall and perform a rigorous selection of music with the Tarleton Wind Ensemble.


Outside of work he enjoys spending time with friends and family, partaking in hobbies such as building jigsaw puzzles and playing board games, and being with his wife Jenny, daughter Emma, and their dog Koda.  Mr. Ready is elated to be a part of the China Spring band program, continuing the tradition of excellence it has seen over the past 30 years and looks forward to guiding the students to many more years of success.

Mr. Ready's responsibilities include directing the China Spring High School Symphonic Band, Jazz II Ensemble, and teaching beginner Trumpet & Saxophone at China Spring Intermediate School.


Tami Bott
High School Assistant Director

Ms. Bott is a Percussionist from Greenwood, a small town in west Texas. She went to Texas A&M University-Commerce, where she graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Music Education.


In college, Ms. Bott studied with Dr. Brian Zator, Cory Doran, Sandi Rennick and Kent Hillman.

She participated in Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, and “The Pride Marching Band-” where she was the Bass Section Leader. She also was a part of the top two Percussion Ensembles, Brazilian Ensemble, and all Steel Band Ensembles-where she was the Head Director of the top Steel Band Ensemble “Panimation.” She also performed two solos for the world premiere of “The Lion’s Roar Book,” a percussion book compiled of marimba solos written by Texas A&M University-Commerce Alum’s. She also served in the Percussion Association in Commerce, Delta Beta Zeta (DBZ), as the Historian and Secretary for two years. 

Ms. Bott’s responsibilities at China Spring include coordinating the Marching Percussion Program, directing the Steel Band and Concert Band in the High School, teaching the Middle School Percussionists, and the Beginning Percussion and Trombone for the district. 


Outside of teaching, Ms. Bott likes to spend time with friends and family, paint, cook new foods, listen to music and play Pokemon Go. 

Rachel Berg
Middle School Head Director

Berg conducting.jpg

A graduate of Hallsville High School, Ms. Berg attended Northwestern State University of Louisiana where she graduated magnum cum laude with a bachelor's in Music Education. At NSU Ms. Berg played in many ensembles including the Spirit of Northwestern Marching band, the Wind Ensemble, and Wind Symphony groups. 


After college, Ms. Berg went to work as the assistant band director at Wortham ISD for a year. Outside of work, Ms. Berg likes to visit family, read, and spend time with her dog.

Ms. Berg's responsibilities include directing the Middle School Varsity Band, 6th Grade Beginner Band, and Middle School Applied Music. 

Ian Mitchell
Middle School Assistant Director

Ian L. Mitchell is in his twenty third year of teaching and his fourteenth year as Assistant Director at China Spring High School and Middle School. Prior to this position he served for a year as Band and Choral Director at Big Bear Middle School, in Big Bear Lake, California and eight years as Director of Bands at Crane Middle School and surrounding Elementary Schools, in Yuma, Arizona.  Mr. Mitchell became an Associate Faculty Member of Arizona Western College in 2002, Yuma, Arizona, teaching Music Appreciation Classes there for six years prior to moving to China Spring in 2008.


His current primary duties include assisting all concert bands, directing the Middle School Jazz Studies Program, teaching the beginning middle school band, and coaching all low brass classes.


Mr. Mitchell received his Bachelor of Music Education degree in 1999 from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where he studied under Richard Blatti, James Akins, and Dr. Jon Woods. While at Ohio State, Mr. Mitchell was a member of The Ohio State University performing and athletic bands, Men’s Glee Club, as well as a member of The Ohio State Marching Band where he had the honor of dotting the “I” in the “Incomparable Script Ohio”.  Mr. Mitchell earned his Master of Music Education degree in 2003 from Vandercook College of Music in Chicago, Illinois, where he studied under Dr. Charles Menghini and Kevin Lepper.


Other Notable performances include; The 1997 Rose Bowl Parade, along with four bowl games which includes Rose Bowl, two Sugar Bowls, and Citrus Bowl while being a member of The Ohio State Marching Band. Mr. Mitchell has also performed at The 1999 The American Choral Directors Association National Conference held in Chicago as a member of The Ohio State Men’s Glee Club and at The 1992 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic held in Chicago, while a member of Lincoln High Gold Band.


He is currently a member of the Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, Association of Texas Small School Bands,  National Eagle Scout Association, and is affiliated with Phi Mu Alpha.


Mr. Mitchell is active member of the Boy Scouts of America, being a an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 444 and Cubmaster for Pack 444. Ian and his wonderful supportive wife Roslyn have four fantastic sons and a daughter: Dylan 18, Jonathan 14, Mason 10, Ashton 5 and Emilia 1.

Sam Silver
Intermediate School Head Director


Mr. Silver is a low brass musician and a graduate from Canton High School. He earned his Associate of Arts in Music from Tyler Junior College and his Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Texas A&M University-Commerce. The 22-23 school year will be his 1st year teaching.

While in college, Mr. Silver performed in the TJC Apache Marching Band, the Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble, TJC Brass Quintet, and the Wind Ensemble. He also spent time in the TAMUC "Pride" Marching Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Ensemble. At both institutions, Mr. Silver served in Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Band Service Fraternity and is a member of Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, and National Band Association.

Mr. Silver's duties within the China Spring Band Program include coordinating the Beginner Band Program, teaching Beginner Band classes, and assisting with the Middle School & High School Bands.

Mr. Silver is an avid baseball fan, and when not in the bandhall, he can be found watching his beloved San Diego Padres, throwing darts, or playing the bass guitar.

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