Upper School Math teacher has interests to the third power

Katie Nail '16
Katie Nail ’16

Convent of the Sacred Heart Upper School Math Teacher Mr. Robert Cushman divides his time between his multiple mathematical, musical and athletic talents within the school community and beyond.
Mr. Cushman teaches Honors Geometry and Honors Precalculus to Upper School students. In addition to his mathematical proficiency, he has a passion for running and a knack for playing the euphonium, a baritone-voiced brass instrument. 
His fascination with the euphonium began when he was in the eighth grade. He was originally a trombone player, however, his school’s musical director switched him to the euphonium after a school musician left in the middle of the year.
“I just loved that low brass, mellow sound that emanated from the euphonium,” Mr. Cushman said.
He continues to pursue his love for music, and still plays today. His designated rehearsal times vary, but he tries to practice five or six days per week when he has an upcoming performance at a Sacred Heart gathering. Otherwise, he rehearses at least twice a week. He recently played the euphonium for Sacred Heart’s musical, Oliver!
His favorite piece is “Spanish Flea” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. He also enjoys playing the melody line of religious hymns, which he shares at Upper School gatherings.
Mr. Cushman’s wife, Mrs. Kathryn Cushman, shares his passion for music. She is the Musical Director for the Sacred Heart Upper School play Oliver!  and teaches Middle and Upper School choral music at The Harvey School in Katonah, New York.
In addition to his commitment to mathematics and devotion to practicing the euphonium, Mr. Cushman has always had a passion for the sport of running. In the summer of ninth grade, less than a year after he learned how to play the euphonium, he joined Huntington High School’s cross country team.

From his 5K races at Huntington High School to his New York City marathon, Mr. Cushman has always had a passion for the sport of running. Courtesy of Mr. Cushman
From his 5K races at Huntington High School to his New York City marathon, Mr. Cushman has always had a passion for the sport of running.
Courtesy of Mr. Cushman

“Once I began running I got hooked on it,” Mr. Cushman said. “Running helped me stay centered and was a great way to relieve stress.”
He then began running year round on his school’s winter and spring track team. After he graduated from high school, he began to increase his running distances and ran his first and fastest marathon in New York City in 1980 with a time of 3:12:38. He continued to run seven more marathons and ran regularly for 21 years before retiring from the sport in 1991 due to osteoarthritis in his right hip.
His dedication to running aided him in his musical endeavors.
“In my running years I was in great shape,” Mr. Cushman said. “Playing the euphonium requires generating some ‘wind’ as well as breath control and being in good shape helped with these essential abilities.”
Mr. Cushman has been equally involved in mathematics throughout his life, both as a teacher and as a student. He attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York as an undergraduate, and later received a degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City.
“I knew right away at the beginning of college that I wanted to major in math. It was a subject that I liked and had some confidence in my abilities,” Mr. Cushman said.
He has even found that his mathematical skills were crucial in the development of his musical talents.
“There are lots of patterns in music and that’s the connection that I see between music and math. One day I would like to take an introductory course in music theory,” Mr. Cushman said.
Mathematical music theory uses modern mathematical structures to compose and analyze works of music, through reconstruction of musical objects such as the diatonic triad, which is the basis of tonal harmony in music.
As a musician, a runner and a teacher, Mr. Cushman’s expertise is valuable to students interested in a variety of athletic, musical and mathematical fields.
“Mr. Cushman is always there to ask me how a race went,” junior Sofia Barbosa and member of the varsity cross country team said. “I know that he’s available to help me with challenging math problems, or lend me advice about an upcoming half marathon, or even play a song on the euphonium to relieve some of the stress of junior year.”