Orchestra set with changes with new director


WHEN people think of change they might get nervous but change isn’t always a bad thing. It can bring positive outcomes. It also gives a chance for people to better themselves. Not everything stays the same for the Richmond high school orchestra. This year there will be a couple alterations taking place, which makes people both anxious and excited.

One of the biggest changes this year is that the RHS orchestra has a new director, Michael West. He has been teaching for 12 years and has taught both band and orchestra. This is his first year in Richmond and he has a couple of expectations for this year.

“As far as plans go, I want to continue the successes we already have because I think there have been a lot of good things going on so far that we need to continue,” he said. “Such as the growth of the program. That’s one of my big goals for this year.”

For the freshmen, this is their first year in high school orchestra. For some it can be scary and it can make newcomers nervous for what to expect, especially having a new teacher.

“Well it’s a new year and we have a new teacher. It was nerve-racking at first because I grew up with the previous director,” freshmen Yosie Santiago said. “It is nerve-racking to have to get to know a new teacher and see how he teaches and who he is as a person. You have to have some sort of connection with a teacher since you’re basically growing up with them and since you’ll have them the rest of the year. They’ll be teaching you how to become better.”

As for the upperclassmen they have had experience in high school orchestra and they have their own expectations and goals.

“I want to get some scholarships since they do that for seniors,” senior Karisa Marshalls says. “I want to get some music scholarships like they did last year and maybe move into the first row of first violins.”

Since there are changes going to be taking place, students have their own opinion on what they want to change.

“I feel like we should be talked about more and maybe have more performances,” Santiago said. “Like doing more things. We’re a family and being able to bond with the members and play music together is something to be recognized. Orchestra is also very artistic. I see more potential since Mr. West is here because he’s preparing the intermediate schools for high school by involving them in ISSMA. I feel like there are a bunch of changes taking place and they’re slowly occurring.”

One of the things West wants to change is getting the orchestra out into the community more. That’s one of his big goals for this year.

“Getting out in the community doesn’t always mean we’re out playing for the community,” he said. “There are lots of things we can do including fundraising. Another way we can do that is by doing charity events of sorts. We can also do more community service like playing at retirement homes and we could do stuff for the little kids as well.”

Getting out into the community basically means more people will know the orchestra. Every member has different opinions on being talked about, so Marshalls shares her opinion.

“I want to put our name out there more, everyone knows who the Richmond orchestra is because of RSO [Richmond symphony orchestra] and RCO [Richmond community orchestra],” she said. “It’s just a matter that we’re here too because there isn’t just a band in high school. We have achievements as well. This is our 3rd year of getting gold and that’s something to talk about.”

While most things in orchestra are going well and do not need any changes at all, there are a couple things everyone would like to get better at.

“I see a lot of fundamentals that need fixing or reinforcing,” West said. “If we get those fundamentals down then everything becomes easier. For example, if we continue having good posture, holding the instrument correctly and having the right equipment for the instrument then we’re set.”

West is focusing on making the orchestra better and showcasing every member’s potential.

“I like how he is teaching,” Santiago said. “He’s making us interact with one another more and challenging us more with seating arrangements. He’s not sugar coating us when we sound bad but instead correcting us. He’s helping us become better.”

Orchestras have both strengths and weaknesses, so West shares his personal opinion on the members strengths.

“One of the biggest strengths for the orchestra is diversity,” he says. “We have people from four different nationalities here. People that speak three different languages. There are people with amazing, well brought up history. Then the kids who have had a really rough time. We’re all together in the same class doing the same thing which is making music. That is so cool and that is what is going to make our program so unique and attractive to everybody because it’s not just that clique of people. It’s an ‘anybody’ kind of group and I don’t have to be from anywhere or do certain things to be accepted here.”

Every single year the orchestra likes to set goals for not only themselves individually but for the whole group.

“Have fun,” West said. “Bottom line is that we’re here to do something we enjoy so let’s have fun while we’re doing it. I hope we can develop real strong friendships between the members of the orchestra. I remember when I was in band as a high school student and sometimes band class was that one thing that I went to during my day that I didn’t have to worry. I didn’t have to sweat about fitting in or doing something right or wrong. It was my family. Those were my friends. Just enjoy making music.”