South High Orchestra

"Evolution of the mind and heart through the wonders of music and art!"

1 December 2017

December is officially here and the Orchestra is gearing up for a series of performances that will take us through these last few weeks of the first semester. Before I get into the details of each of these events, I want to say that it has truly been a real pleasure to watch the students work hard at refining their performance skills these past few months. Much improvement has been made in both personal and ensemble skills this semester by nearly everyone. I am eagerly looking forward to watching all the different ensembles really take off in the second semester.

The Winter Concert this year is on Wednesday, December 13th at 7pm. All ensembles will perform at this end of the semester concert. Call for students is at 6:30 in concert dress. As a reminder, all black is the expectation for the South Orchestra. For girls, please make sure skirts and dresses fall well past the knee and shoes do not have heels. For boys, please leave the tuxes at home. A black button up shirt and slacks is the expectation. 

We will again be making this concert a benefit for the ASD Child in Transition / Homeless program and will be collecting donations of blankets and food gift cards both before and at the concert. Blankets should be clean and in good condition (or can be new too) and food gift certificates should be to restaurants for a family of 3 or 4.  Subway, McDonald’s, Red Robin, are all good choices, as are other restaurants in this price range. If you feel more inclined to write a check then please make it out to ASD CiT/H. Last year we raised over $1000 in food assistance and donated 22 blankets. I was overwhelmed by your generosity last year, but just for fun, let’s see if we can top it this go around!

After the concert there will be a dessert potluck for everyone to share together. Freshman and Sophomores please bring cookies and Juniors and Seniors please bring cupcakes and brownies. Please limit this to homemade goodies so we aren’t swamped with I will pickup the milk, hot chocolate & decaf coffee.  Any other requests?

On Thursday, December 7th, Camerata will travel to Oceanview first thing in the morning to perform alongside the South Band and Choir. From there we will split off and go visit the Goldenview Advanced Orchestra to play for, and alongside, them before lunch. We will be back at South by the middle of 4th period. These recruiting tours are always lots of fun and a great way to encourage younger students to begin and/or continue playing string instruments.

And on Monday, December 18th, Camerata will be traveling to the ASD Admin building for a performance of holiday music from 10:15-11:00am. This performance is open to the public and all are welcome to attend. The Admin building hosts performances in the morning and afternoon in the weeks before the semester is over. This is the first time we are participating in this series and I am really looking forward to showing off our Orchestra program there.

I am so grateful that your kids have chosen to be a part of the Orchestra community here at South. Though teenagers sometimes forget, our families and communities make our lives what they are. Even if it is just a small part of their lives, I believe they are infinitely richer for engaging daily with music and art. Thank you for continuing to encourage them on their path! That’s all for now! Happy holidays everyone!




1 November 2017

Whew! What a month. I know many of you came to see Nosferatu and can probably begin to guess what went into putting it all together. The successes of Nosferatu will resonate in the students who participated for a long time.  Of course, we are on to the next 17 things, but thankfully only a few of those things are in the immediate future so I will make this letter short this month. 

Orchestra Hoodies and T-shirts are ready to be ordered. Order forms were given to all students in the past two days. Please return the form with a check made out to SAHS (cash is fine too) by this Friday, November 3rd.

This Saturday, November 4th, Camerata will perform at the Christmas Town Bazaar at 2pm. We will likely have a short rehearsal from 1-1:45 in order to ensure our best performance of these time honored tunes. Ugly Sweaters are the “costume” for this concert.

All State is November 16 - 18 this year. 11 of our students will be representing the Orchestra program at South. Rehearsals on the 16th and 17th are at Bartlett HS and students are expected to get themselves there and away both days. The performance is at 6pm on the 18th at West HS. I recommend all attend as they will be performing repertoire that will be breathtaking under the baton of a truly amazing conductor.

Our quarterly Parent meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 30th at 7pm. We will be discussing upcoming concerts and fundraisers. If you are interested in helping out in any way, please plan on attending this meeting in the Orchestra room at South.

Finally, looking forward, our Winter Concert will on Wednesday December 13th at 7pm. We will again make this concert a fundraiser for ASD’s Child in Transition / Homeless program. Last year we raised over $1000 in food assistance and donated 20+ blankets to the families of ASD students in need. Further details will be shared later in the month.




5 October 17

The big news for this month is that Nosferatu is coming to the SAHS Auditeria on the 27th and 28th of October. This has been a somewhat ambitious project to place at the beginning of the year, but it is Halloween after all, and it seemed like an appropriate time to do this show. The run up to the performances will be pretty busy with fine tuning the music and staging the performance. I truly hope everyone can make it. We won’t do something like this again for quite some time, so invite friends and family and buy tickets early! They are $10 each. For advanced purchases, please send a check or cash in an envelope stating how many tickets and what days you want and we’ll get them hand delivered to you.

On Thursday, October 12th we will be presenting the SAHS Fall Showcase Concert featuring ensembles in the SAHS Music Department. You’ll have a chance to hear selections from the Concert Choir, the Symphonic Band, Camerata and the Concert Orchestra.  We are intentionally limiting the number of pieces each group does to shorten the program a bit. We respectfully ask that you stay for the whole concert. When the last group plays and the room is empty except those performers parents, it feels a little underwhelming. Not a situation anyone of us would want to be in. The performance will start promptly at 7pm.

Finally, on Wednesday October 25th we will have Fall Conferences from 11:45-2:30pm and then again from 4-7pm. The Music Department meets parents in the Music Suite so you will have to venture upstairs to talk with me. I look forward to meeting with as many of you as possible. Please do not feel that you have to wait outside the room if I am talking to someone. Come on in, sign in at the table and take a seat if there is someone already here. I will work to make discussions brief if there is a line.

I think that is all for now. As always, if I missed anything or you have any questions please do not hesitate to write.  




30 August 17

The school year has gotten off to a great start for the Orchestra here at South. If the first few days are any indication, this is going to be a stellar year for our program… which of course, is pretty exciting. I try to send these updates right around the beginning of each month so everyone can get refreshed on what's happening with the Orchestra each month.

Tomorrow night, Thursday August 31st, we will be having our first Orchestra parent meeting at 7pm. All are invited. From 7-7:30pm we will be discussing the various events that I will need help with throughout the year, starting with the upcoming Garage Sale fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, September 9th. After that discussion we will transition to information about Camerata’s trip to Chicago at the end of March.

Next week, SAHS’s Back to School night is scheduled for Thursday September 7th at 6:15pm. I hope to meet many of the new families AND see some familiar faces that evening. You get the opportunity to attend all six classes in your students schedule and meet all their teachers.

The following week we will have our Orchestra Back to School Night on Wednesday, September 13th at Uncle Joe’s Pizzeria from 6-8pm. This was a fun event last year and I hope more people take the opportunity to come out and share pizza with other Orchestra families!

On Friday, September 29th, the Camerata and Concert Orchestras will be having an evening rehearsal / practice party to kickoff the preparations forour performances of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 classic silent film Nosferatu. Please make sure this is on your calendars so all students in the Nosferatu Ensemble can attend.

Finally, more information about the garage sale will be emailed to everyone on Friday.

I am truly looking forward to a great year here in the South HS Orchestra program!




28April 2017

The year is starting to wrap up and I just wanted to touch base on a couple of things with everyone.

Our final Spring Concert is in less than a week! The kids have been working hard and I am really looking forward to their being able to share the musiclal developnment that has happened this year in the Orchestra program at South. We look forward to performing for you on the evening of Wednesday, May 3rd at 7pm.

There will be a Chamber Music Concert on Thursday, May 11th featuring students who are performing in the All State Solo & Ensemble Festival on the 12th and 13th.  The performance will begin at 7pm.  Students from Band, Choir and Orchestra will all be represented.

Graduation is on Monday, May 15th this year.  All students will be expected to perform at the Sullivan Arena at 7pm. Buses will leave South at 5:30 and will get back at 9:30pm. Please plan on having students at South by 5pm.

Finally, there was going to be a meeting tonight about a potential last fundraiser for the year. In the interest of everyones sanity surrounding the busyness of the end of the school year, we will skip it and revisit the idea in the fall.

Enjoy these last few weeks of school everyone!




3 April 2017

It's been a few months since I have sent one of these updates and I figured it was time to make sure you are all aware of things that are happening in the South High Orchestra and Music Department in the final quarter of this school year.

Tomorrow night, April 4th, is the SAHS Spring Showcase. This yearly concert is a chance for the top groups to share things they have been working on through 3rd quarter in preparation for the HS Large Group Festival later this month.  They also will be sharing pieces they have been working on that will be performed later this week in Anaheim! Since both Concert and Camerata are traveling this year, I felt it was appropriate for both to perform at the Spring Showcase. All Students in these two groups need to be at SAHS by 6:30 in normal concert attire.

This Wednesday night, April 5th, all students traveling to Anaheim need to be at the airport by 10:45pm. Make sure to check in with me before checking in via the eTicket # that will be given to students this week.  There is still time to sign up for Club 49 if you haven't already in order to get your baggage fees waived.

On Monday April 17th, Camerata will be performing at 7pm at Bartlett HS in the yearly HS Large Group Festival. They will be playing alongside three other high school programs. This is a great opportunity to hear how our ensemble measures up to other programs in town. The program the students are working on is really stupendous and this is one of the concerts I most look forward to in the year.

There will be a meeting for the final fundraiser for the year on Thursday, April 27th here at SAHS at 7pm. If you are interested in helping organize a program wide garage sale, please plan on attending this meeting.  More info will be sent out as we get closer.

Finally! Our final concert for the year is scheduled for Wednesday, May 3rd. All groups will perform a special program for you in celebration of a year of hard work and musical development. Students will need to arrive by 6:30 in normal concert dress.  The concert will start at 7pm and will be about 90 minutes long. We're really looking forward to sharing the fruits of our musical labors with you!

Happy Spring!!!




1 February 2017

Hello Orchestra Families!

I just wanted to write again to remind you all of the 2017 Pasta & Pops Concert at the end of this week!  We had a great time last year and plan to make this years concert even better!!!  Dinner starts at 6pm and the whole thing should be wrapped by about 8pm.

If you would like to come, and I encourage everyone to do so, please RSVP with the number of tickets you would like. If you can send your student in with money for said tickets all the better, though I can leave them at the ticketing table to be paid for there if that is better for you.  Just let me know.

Tickets are $10 per person, with a family of four or more capped at $40.  We do need to have all people in your party ticketed so please make sure to let me know how many tickets you need. All profits from this event will go directly to offsetting the cost of the Anaheim trip in April for students.

When you arrive please check out the silent auction tables.  All the money raised from the silent auction will go directly towards helping pay for travel costs for students going on the Anaheim.  I'm positive your generosity will be greatly appreciated.

The Camerata Ensemble and the Concert Orchestra are performing this year.  The music that was picked out for this event is more challenging as compared to last year, and I felt that it was better to have the Chamber group sit this one out. Of course, everyone is still very much invited and encouraged to come.  I do think it would be beneficial for Chamber students and parents to witness this event, as it is an incredible show of the strength of the Music Department at South.  We are many, we love to play, and we perform at a very high caliber.  All of which are very good things in my humble opinion.  :)

Hope to see you all there!




9 January 2017

Greetings SAHS Orchestra Parents!

Second semester is here! I always look forward to the second half of the school year and this year is no exception.  Students have been together in their groups for at least half a school year now and the music really starts to shine as the groups take on their own personalities.  Truly good things are in store for the rest of the year.

January and February are mostly quiet months so there isn't much to update you on.  It gets busy fast though so it's good to have a heads up on what is in front of us.

For all students going to Anaheim in April, a $300 payment is due this Friday, 1/13.  Payments be be made in Zangle or you can send a check in if that is easier.  The last payment will be made in February and each student will receive an invoice in the second week of February stating what has been paid and what their remaining balance is.

For any student in Camerata or Concert that did not initially sign up to go, but has had a change of heart and would like to, this week is the absolute last chance we can squeeze you in.  Please let me know ASAP if your child falls into this category. A signed permission slip and a check for $1100 will be required by this Friday.

Our Orchestra Parent Group meeting is this Thursday, 1/12 at 7pm!  If you are interested in helping the Orchestra thrive and prosper then we would be delighted to have you participate.  We will mostly be discussing our next big event, which is....

This years Pasta & Pops Concert is scheduled for Friday, February 3rd at 6pm.  We had a great time at last years event and we plan to make it even better this year.  Camerata and Concert students will be performing alongside the Symphonic Band and the Concert Choir in a fun and festive performance.  Pieces planned for the Orchestra include music from the Incredibles, James Bond themes, as well as a few others.  Tickets will be $10.  More info will come out in a week or so.  

I think that is about it for now. Please do not hesitate to write with any questions.




5 December 2016

An idea was shared with me recently that I thought was quite interesting.  It was a suggestion to turn our Winter Orchestra Concert into a benefit for families and students who are struggling to make ends meet. I talked with students about this idea, thought about it for a few weeks, made some calls, and can say that I feel that we have found a good way that can help make a difference in the lives of students and families at both South and in the ASD during this holiday season.  

I talked with Barb Dexter, the program director for the Child in Transition / Homeless program in the Anchorage School District about how we as an Orchestra community could most effectively help.  She suggested food gift certificates from Carrs, Fred Meyers or even a restaurant such as Subway, McDonalds or any other place where a family could enjoy a hot meal together.  

She also suggested donating blankets.  Students built on this idea and talked of fleece blankets that can be cut at the edges to create a fringe that then ties to another piece of fleece to make a warm blanket. They seemed to like the idea of having a project to work on after the concert. :)

So in the spirit of the holidays I respectfully ask, if you are able, to join us in giving to the CIT/H program this year.  When you are shopping this week, perhaps you can pick up a gift certificate for a restaurant at one of the big gift certificate displays in the supermarkets.  Or maybe venture to Joanne’s or Michael’s and pick up the materials for a blanket.  Or perhaps you can look for gently used blankets that are not getting used at home and donate those. 

We will have tables at our concert next week where you can stack blankets.  There will also be  a donation bucket to put gift certificates into. If you prefer just to share by check or cash, we will use that money to buy food gift certificates the next day.  I’d like to get our donation to CIT/H by Thursday 12/15 so there is time to for everything to be distributed properly.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I truly hope your holidays are filled with joy and happiness, family and friends, and of course, music, merriment and mirth. I’ll see you at the concert next Tuesday night at 7pm.




1 December 2016

Greetings Everyone!

Brrrrr..... it has gotten REALLY cold outside, though with the slightly warmer weather perhaps we'll actually see some snow in the next few days.  Inside the Orchestra room at South however, things are heating up as the busy holiday season is officially upon us.

The last day for our yearly November Fruit Fundraiser is tomorrow, December 1st. Please have students bring in all order forms and money collected before 4th hour tomorrow.

Also on December 1st is the Orchestra Parent Meeting at 7pm. We will meet in the Orchestra room at South and will be discussing the upcoming Winter Concert, the Tree Chipping Fundraiser, FlashMobs at the Dimond Center and a plan for moving forward as a group in the second semester.  Everyone is welcome to come. Hope to see you there!

On Thursday, December 8th the Camerata Ensemble will be traveling around the south side of town alongside the Concert Choir and Symphonic Band on our first Music Dept tour in a few years.  We will be playing at Goldenview MS, Huffman Elementary and Rilke Schule and enjoying lunch at the Dimond Center. This is an all day event and students will leave at 7:35 and get back to school at 3pm. Please make sure to make proper arrangements for pickup if your student normally takes the bus.

On Tuesday, December 13th, all Orchestra classes will be performing at the Winter Concert. The concert will begin at 7pm and will in in the SAHS Auditeria. I am excited for the Chamber Ensemble to perform in their first performance at South. And both the Concert and Camerata Ensembles are very excited to perform for you and share the fruits of all their hard work this semester.  

I am working on making the Winter Concert a benefit for our South High students who are part of the Child in Transition/Homeless program. Students in CIT/H have daily struggles that many of us may never experience firsthand. They can be hit especially hard in the cold winter months. It is my hope that we can come together as a musical community to support these kids in need. What form this will take exactly is still a bit up in the air, but I should have more details early next week.

Concert DRESS Code

For formal performances, concert dress is expected from all students. All Black and dressy is the general rule of thumb. Slacks, collared shirts, and dresses that go well past the knee are all good. Low cut tops, short skirts and high heeled shoes are not ok. Students pushing the school dress code boundaries will be sent home and receive a zero for the concert. Please make sure your student has proper concert attire before the day of the concert.  If getting proper concert dress is going to be impossible, please let me know ASAP so I can help out as needed.

On Saturday, December 17th, all groups will be meeting at the Dimond Center to perform a Flash Mob around the Ice Rink at 12pm.  Students should wear festive sweaters and generally plan on blending in to the masses of shoppers.  Over the next 45 minutes we will regroup in different spots in the mall to perform.  At 1pm, Camerata Ensemble members will play Holiday songs on the stage set up specially for the Holiday season.

Finally, through December, we will be collecting money for our Tree Chipping Fundraiser.  Students will be encouraged to sell Christmas tree chipping services for a $20 fee. 75% will go to student travel accounts and the rest will go towards the program. Orders are due at Finals on December 21st and 22nd. On Saturday January 7th volunteers will be driving around and collecting trees that will then be chipped back at school. If you want chips for any reason, come on down to the school that Saturday and collect as many as you would like. 

I hope your holiday season is filled to the brim with family, friends, time outdoors, good food, and of course, lots and lots of music! Happy holidays everyone!!




14 November 2016

I am extremely pleased to announce that four SAHS Orchestra Students auditioned and were accepted into this years NAfME All Northwest Orchestra.  Violinists, Jake Morris and Alison Royce, and violists, Pedro and Patty Graterol will be traveling to Seattle to perform in the beautiful Benaroya Hall on Sunday, February 19th with the very best young musicians in five states. Their hard work and dedication to their instruments has paid off in achieving this incredible honor.




1 November 2016

Hello Orchestra Parents and Students!

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween!  October was filled with lots of hard musical work, a great concert performed by all the top performing groups at South, a clothing drive fundraiser that went really well, and of course conferences!  It was great to see and meet many of you. I had a few impromptu conferences out in the community over the weekend as well.  It’s always nice to see people outside of the school setting.  It was a busy month, but as is normal for this season, it is about to get busier! 

The month of November is our yearly Fruit Fundraiser in the Music Department.  Orders are placed throughout the month with delivery slated for the second or third week of January. Orchestra students generally have not sold so much in the past few years, but with all profits going towards students travel this year, I expect more fruit to flow through our classroom. Students not traveling are encouraged to still sell fruit this month with the recognition that all money raised goes towards our program. Library expansion and technological refreshes are top priorities, and there are certainly some equipment needs we can fulfill as well. We are also looking at piloting an enrichment program in 2nd semester that will require some funds to subsidize the costs of the program. I will send a separate email in a few days outlining ways to order online.

This Thursday, November 3rd is our monthly Orchestra Parent & Student meeting at 7pm. If you are interested in volunteering and helping to support the growth of our Orchestra her at South, I encourage you to attend. We will be discussing ongoing fundraising efforts, as well as events happening in November and December.

This Saturday, November 5th, is the Christmas Town Bazaar here in the South HS Commons. This is a yearly tradition down here on the south side of town and a performance opportunity that we usually participate in.  The Concert Choir performs at 1pm, the Camerata Orchestra at 2pm, and the Symphonic Band plays at 3pm.  Camerata students should arrive at school by 12pm for a short rehearsal beforehand.

On Thursday, November 10th, our very first Chamber Music Concert will take place in the SAHS Auditeria at 8pm.  Officially entitled, the Cup Cake Pop Cabaret, this event will feature all students who showed an interest in performing solos or in small ensembles for this event. As I have listened to students practicing for this, I have been constantly amazed at the level of talent that our young musicians have.  The entire evening should run about an hour.  Ticket prices of $8 in advance and $10 at the door include a cake pop and cupcakes, as well as coffee and tea if you are so inclined. I encourage all to come, even if your student is not performing.

Nine of our most talented students auditioned and were accepted into the All State Orchestra this year.  Rehearsal are all day on November 17 & 18 at East HS, with a performance at West HS on the evening of Saturday, November 19th. The music last year was gorgeous and I expect this year will be the same.

Things to make sure are on your calendar for December are the parent meeting on Thursday December 1st and of course, our Winter Concert on Tuesday December 13th!

Finally, T-shirts and Hoodies arrived today! There will be a few extras if you are interested.

Please feel free to write with any questions!  Hope to see you all sometime soon!




Writing Assignment #2 - Due 11/3

Please describe your regular weekly practice time outside of class. Does the amount of time you put in on your instrument outside of class fulfill the ambition you have to become a better musician? Do you feel like you possess the necessary skills and strategies needed to practice effectively? If so, please describe some of the strategies you use to learn a piece of music and polish it until it sounds the way it should. If not, what are some of the things you could do differently when learning to play music that challenges you?  For everyone, how can we better encourage the enthusiastic pursuit of beautiful playing? Please write one typed page in normal sized font answering these prompts and turn it in by Thursday November 3rd.




1 October 2016

Greetings Everyone!

I hope you are all enjoying autumn this year. The leaves are falling rapidly and winter is just around the corner. Personally my fingers are crossed for a very snowy season this go around. We will see soon enough. As promised, here is my monthly letter keeping you updated on upcoming events and things to be aware of in the SAHS Orchestra as we enter October.

Our young musicians have been working hard during the first part of Q1 identifying things that need work and recognizing goals that are important to polishing our collective performance skills.  Both the Chamber and the Concert Orchestras have really impressed me this year with where they are in the development of their musicality. Lots of amazing things are in store for the Orchestra program as the musicians in these two groups develop their skills more fully. And the Camerata ensemble is playing at a much higher level than this time last year. They are a tighter and more focused group and I am happy to report they have given me goosebumps on more than one occasion with their overall musicianship. There are great things in store for everyone!

If you are interested in being an Orchestra parent volunteer, we will have a meeting at 7pm on Thursday, October 6th. We will discuss continuing efforts to fundraise for the trip to Anaheim in April and our upcoming Chamber Music Cabaret on November 10th. Please feel free to join the group of parents that are helping to propel the Orchestra forward.

On Thursday, October 13th, the Camerata Orchestra will perform in the annual SAHS Fall Showcase Concert. This event brings ensembles together from each of the programs in the Music Department for an evening of dazzling student performances. I am particularly proud of the music that we will perform for our part of the evening. It is a busy evening and the Auditeria gets pretty full so arrive early to get a good seat. Show starts at 7pm.

The 2016 SAHS Music Department Clothing Drive is in full swing. One of our parent volunteers found this really great program through Value Village that donates money back to our programs for collecting clothes, linens and shoes for them. Please check your closets and help the Orchestra out by doing a fall cleaning!  The student who brings in the most bags (normal kitchen size) will receive a bluetooth speaker OR that money can be deposited into their travel account directly if they are headed to Anaheim. Final donations need to be at the School by Saturday October 15th at 12pm. Please feel free to send donations anytime between now and the 15th.

Finally, for all students traveling to Anaheim in April, the next installment of $400 is due October 14th. Payment can be made with a credit card through Zangle or you can send a check in made out to SAHS. Any students in Chamber or Concert who would like to go and haven’t committed to going yet have about a week to change their mind.  Please let me know ASAP if you want to make this happen for your child. 




Writing Assignment #1 - Due 9/16

Take a few minutes to imagine your best year in Orchestra ever. Don’t remember. Imagine. What does it look like? What would you accomplish? What would the group accomplish? What are some of the challenges that might come up? What are the strategies that you would use for taking them on and moving past them? 

In a letter format written to me your teacher, please describe this best year ever using the prompts you just thought about. One important note, please write this as if it were May 22nd, 2017, and make sure to write in the past tense. 1-2 pages should be enough.Try to keep it realistic to a certain degree.  One line that says, “Dear Mr Levine. We were the best group ever. Sincerely, ___________” isn’t going to cut it.  :)   

Obvious disregard for the assignment will be returned to sender.  You have two weeks to get an acceptable letter to me. The last date I will take this is September 16th. No exceptions. Please try to get it in sooner if you can. 

Happy imagining!




20 August 2016


I am really excited to be back after a wonderful summer filled with travel, the outdoors and lots and lots of music. Breaks are necessary times for reflection and rejuvenation and I tried to use mine well. I hope everyone truly enjoyed their summers and got all the R&R that was needed. But I also hope you are all ready to make music with friends both old and new in just a few short days.

I believe we will continue to build on the successes of last year in the Orchestra Program here at South and grow this community in ways that everyone who participates can be incredibly proud of.  Keep in mind, it will take hard work, determination and with the constant recognition that we are always doing important work that demands our very best, be it a seemingly simple task or something more obviously complex. I know we can do it!

So bring those instruments! I'd like to start playing on Monday to change it up a little from years past. Don't worry about being a little rusty. Most people probably are to some extent, but we will brush off those skills quickly and get right back into it. Cellos and basses are back from summer repairs and ready to rock and roll. If you play violin or viola and need to borrow one, please try to see me at the beginning of the day or during the passing period before your class and we'll get you set up.

See you soon! 




15 July 2016

I sincerely hope everyone is having a great summer so far!  Score study has begun for me and I am really looking forward to working on the pieces that have been picked out for next year.  There is some truly great music in our future!!!




4 April 2016

Thanks to all that came out to the Spring Showcase and South Area Festival concerts last week.     Both went very well and were really great events.  I love for parents and students to see the continuum of musical development that begins in 6th grade and carries on through High School, all in one concert.  For the students, it is fun just for the sheer number of students participating.  When else but during these years do we get to participate in musical events that have this many musicians performing at once?  As for the Spring Showcase, the Symphonic students did very well and played gorgeously much of the time.  We got lots of compliments on the varied repertoire and how well the students played the pieces. I for one was very proud of their performance.

Fourth Quarter flies by for everyone thanks to how busy it can get so I thought reminding you of a couple of important dates would be good.  

The Symphonic group performs at Bartlett HS in the ASD Large Group festival on Tuesday, April 12th.  They will be playing second so will probably play around 7:25 or so.  This particular concert is fairly important as it is one where they get adjudicated by a professional musician and teacher brought up from out of state.  Additionally, they (and you!) can compare and contrast how South is doing in comparison to the other top HS Orchestra ensembles in the ASD.  Could be interesting and informative in the very least.  :)

On Wednesday May 4th, we will be having our Spring Concert for all ensembles.  This will be our final performance for the year. I’m really looking forward to working on all the pieces that will be played that evening over the next month.  We have a lot of work to do, but I’d like to believe that it will all be very rewarding when all is said and done.That concert will of course be in the Auditeria at SAHS and will start promptly at 7pm.

Playing tests will be recorded and emailed to me this quarter.  During 3rd quarter, we did playing tests in sectionals during lunch a couple of times.  While I prefer playing tests in person and in front of at least a few peers, I like the idea of having a recorded example of each student’s progress throughout the year, hence the switch from live to recorded playing tests.  Concert Orchestra dues dates for playing tests are 4/1, 4/13, 4/27.  Symphonic dates are 4/6, 4/20, 5/11. Students received these dates on the first day of Q4. The policy on late work for this assignment is that students have 48 hours after the due date to email it to me. This is of course is in case of any technical glitches that might arise. 

I have been thinking a lot about next year and how the program will be restructured to encompass the full three levels or Orchestra that are in the ASD High School Program guide.  Most of the students in the Concert group will find themselves in the new Concert level group which will be our mid level group. This group will be key to bridging a gap between what the typical HS Concert group plays and what the top level groups are working on. A Chamber Orchestra will be created specifically for incoming Freshman to develop the skill required of playing in a HS program successfully.  And finally the Symphonic group will be renamed the Camerata Orchestra.  All Symphonic students from this year will be encouraged to continue on in the Camerata group net year. The three names were taken from when South had a three level program before. In the catalog they are know as Orchestra I Preparatory, Orchestra II Concert Orchestra, and Orchestra III Symphonic Strings.  I anticipate each group will have somewhere between 25 and 35 students.  

If you would like to help out in any way, please contact me.  It seems that we could really benefit from a parent group that helped with fundraising and creating better opportunities for all the SAHS Orchestra students. Would you be interested in helping out in some capacity?

If you have made it to the end of all this then infinite thanks for taking the time to read till the end.  I will only write a missive like this once a quarter or so but it contains lots of information that I feel is important to share so I appreciate that you took the time to make it all the way through!  Please feel free to write back with any questions if you have a need for clarification on anything.  It has been a great year and I look forward to many many more years of musical growth here in the SAHS Orchestra program!




15 January 16

I just wanted to let you know some details for the upcoming Pasta and Pops Fundraiser Concert scheduled for Friday, January 29th here in the SAHS Commons.  Music will be provided by the Band, Orchestra and Choir, with seating for eating and enjoying the music spread out in front of each of the three groups along the length of the Commons.

The Olive Garden will be catering a Spaghetti dinner with salad, breadsticks, dessert and drinks.  Cost for dinner will be $12 per person or $40 for a family of 4+.  If you could RSVP and give us the number of people that will be attending in your family we would be very grateful.

We are also planning on having silent auction items available.  If you or anyone you know might have something to donate, please let us know and we will include it in the silent auction.

We are hoping to make this an annual community event where we can enjoy a meal together and celebrate the great music the students here at South are making!  A flier was sent home with each Orchestra student today so hopefully you will see it sometime this weekend.




Written Assignment #3 - Due 11 January 16

Please read Jeanne Baxtresser's article “Becoming a Team Player”.  Write a one to two page summary of the points you feel are particularly vital (and why) to the success of the SAHS Orchestra.  Due Monday 1/11 for full credit.  Please make sure it is turned in by Friday 1/15 as I will not be accepting them after that.  Thanks!




12 December 15

The Orchestra Final this semester will be in two parts.  One playing section and one written section.

The written portion will be done during the final block on Wednesday or Thursday depending on your schedule.

For the playing portion, please record and email me an example of your playing before the day of your final.  Please choose a 16 - 32 measure excerpt from the music we performed at the Winter Concert that shows off your best playing.  I am listening for tone quality, rhythm, intonation and general musicality.  Most phones and cameras have video capabilities these days. Feel free to send me a video recording if necessary. If you cannot make a recording at home, please see me on Monday or Tuesday to record your excerpt during lunch.  




22 October 15

Over this past week I have introduced the SmartMusic software to students and many of the parents who came to conferences.  If you are not familiar with it, SmartMusic is a program that lets students practice many of the pieces we are working on in class with full Orchestral accompaniment.  Students can change the tempos of the music to better suit their current ability and familiarity with the piece they are working on. It also allows students to record their parts and get immediate feedback on how precise they are with notes and rhythms.  They and I can also listen back to the recordings to assess dynamics, tone quality, and articulations.  

Eventually, we will use it as a tool to assign and submit playing tests on scales and excerpts from our repertoire.  For now though, I am most interested in students using it as a practice tool to work on both pieces they are working on in class as well as pieces that they are challenged by, especially if they are feeling less than challenged in their Orchestra class so far.  For these students, I have created a few non scored assignments that they can work on outside of class, get a little more of the challenge they desire, and share with me to show me their progress.

SmartMusic is a subscription based service and eventually will cost around $40 a year for access to the extensive library of music available.  This ends up being less than one private lesson and I think is worth every penny and then some.  There will be a few students who cannot afford it.  I will work with the PTA and our own fundraising machine to make sure all kids with a computer at home have access.  Additionally, there will be computers set up in the practice rooms at South so students can use the software before and after school, as well as at lunch. 

In the meantime however, the company has graciously donated a free trial run on the software and service through this year for students to get familiar with it.  The discount code for the trial subscription is:


I highly recommend that all students download the software this weekend and spend some time getting familiar with its potential as a great practice tool.  A clip on microphone is necessary to use it fully, though musicians can still start using it without one if they are just playing along with recordings and listening to the other parts in the Orchestra.  Please see the SmartMusic page on this website for step by step instructions on how to proceed.




Written Assignment #2 - Due 22 October 15

To make the most out of being part of the Orchestra program here at South, who/what are you “responsible for” and what/who are you “responsible to”? For this beginning of the quarter writing assignment, I want you to explore the subtle difference between being “responsible for” and “responsible to” yourself, your instrument, your section, the program.  Please consider the concept of responsibility with the discussion of what makes a great Orchestra in mind. Please include a paragraph at the end that tells me how you think the Orchestra is going so far and what you enjoy about it as well as what think could be done to improve it if necessary.




9 Oct 15

I am proud to announce that over 90% of our Orchestra members who tried out for All State this year passed the audition.  Congratulations to Collyn, Aaron, Pedro, Katherine, Alison, Caily, Patty, Jacob, Jerimiah and Tony!




2 Oct 15

Please read the short article "The Case for Active Practicing" by Henry Myers. Talk to the text by circling or underlining statements you find interesting and agree or disagree with.  Comment in the margins. Once you've done this, please write a short response in your practice journals (two filled facing pages please) that include observations and realizations that this writing might inspire in you. Feel free to agree or disagree with his ideas, but more importantly, tell me why you feel the way you do. Any epiphanies?




14 Sept 15

Practice Journals have been handed out and are officially part of what we do consistently in the South High Orchestra Program.  We will begin the process with turning them in weekly to make sure everyone has the formatting down.  In a few months we may transition to once every two weeks and then possibly phase them out before the school year is over.  I need to get a better sense about the kind of practice time that students are engaging in.  As a reminder, I will never take them from you for more than a day, so plan accordingly. Also, what is important for you is just as important for me too.  Feel free to ask to see my practice journal to hold me accountable to practicing whenever you wish.




Written Assignment #1 - Due 31 Aug 15

Please write me a letter dated May 6th, 2016.  In it you should give me specific reasons for why you deserve an A for the overall year; what have you done, what have you accomplished, how have you grown as a musician, how have you contributed to the ensemble, where has music taken you, where do you see it going for you in the future and anything else that you might be creatively inspired to write about. Think big.  Dream about your best year ever in Orchestra. I prefer a typed out letter but will take it handwritten if that is your only option. Length should be long enough that I can clearly see you have thought carefully about the assignment and that you have given it the care that any assignment handed out in this class deserves.




22 Aug 15

I sincerely hope that everyone enjoyed the first few days of classes in the SAHS Orchestra room. I was very happy to hear the different groups getting familiar with our warmup exercises and begin sight reading the pieces that I put in front of you. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of playing in all groups and look forward to watching and hearing everyone in our Orchestra community grow in their individual and collective musical skills. Even more so than day one, I believe the SAHS Orchestra program can be one of the finest in the state. Thank you for making week one so enjoyable! Great things are on the horizon!




03 Aug 15

Now that registration has officially begun, I am starting to get inquires about auditions for the Symphonic group. I will be at school and prepared to listen to students who are interested in auditioning on Wednesday, August 12th. Don't worry about setting up a time, just show up and be ready to play. Auditions will consist of a prepared solo piece that shows off some shifting skills, a couple of two octave scales both major and minor (be prepared for flat keys) and a bit of sight reading... probably some Bach and something more contemporary as well.  Each audition should be no more than ten minutes or so. If you can't make it on the 12th, then we will have auditions at lunch and after school on the first two days of school as well. Whatever works best for you is fine with me.  Looking forward to the year starting!




01 May 15

Greetings! I am glad you have found the new website for the South Anchorage High School Orchestra! I am really looking forward to meeting all the students in the Orchestra this fall and can't wait to get started. You'll find that I love to play exciting and interesting music that comes from all times and places.  All I ask is that you keep an open mind and do your best to find beauty in whatever music we find ourselves working on. I truly believe we are going to have a great time in the years ahead.