Orchestra director reflects on first year with program

New teacher puts emphasis on learning along with students

Symphonic+Orchestra+preformed+%22The+Odyssey%2C%22+%22Suite+for+Strings%22+and+%22Ashokan+Farewell%22+at+their+spring+concert+on+June+6.+Orchestra+director+Elizabeth+Fortune+guides+students+through+their+performance.+After+the+performance%2C+students+honored+and+thanked+Fortune+for+her+work+with+orchestra+this+year.+Fortune+has+been+particularly+focused+on+learning+along+with+her+students+this+year+as+her+first+in+the+program.
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Orchestra director reflects on first year with program

Symphonic Orchestra preformed

Symphonic Orchestra preformed "The Odyssey," "Suite for Strings" and "Ashokan Farewell" at their spring concert on June 6. Orchestra director Elizabeth Fortune guides students through their performance. After the performance, students honored and thanked Fortune for her work with orchestra this year. Fortune has been particularly focused on learning along with her students this year as her first in the program.

Julian Whitworth

Symphonic Orchestra preformed "The Odyssey," "Suite for Strings" and "Ashokan Farewell" at their spring concert on June 6. Orchestra director Elizabeth Fortune guides students through their performance. After the performance, students honored and thanked Fortune for her work with orchestra this year. Fortune has been particularly focused on learning along with her students this year as her first in the program.

Julian Whitworth

Julian Whitworth

Symphonic Orchestra preformed "The Odyssey," "Suite for Strings" and "Ashokan Farewell" at their spring concert on June 6. Orchestra director Elizabeth Fortune guides students through their performance. After the performance, students honored and thanked Fortune for her work with orchestra this year. Fortune has been particularly focused on learning along with her students this year as her first in the program.

Dhani Srinivasan, Staff Reporter

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Elizabeth Fortune had one main goal in mind when she joined the Performing Arts program this year as the new orchestra director: be a learner. She knew that transitioning from instructing a middle school to high school program would be challenging but was excited to learn.

“My goal was really to retool by brain for working with high school kids,” Fortune said. “I definitely learned that working with high school kids is different. I had to change so much.”

The music staff approached Fortune last year after Brittany Newell announced her resignation. She describes the offer as serendipitous because at the time she was considering leaving her position at Washington Middle School.

“My body and brain were saying to me, ‘I’d like to take on a new challenge,’” Fortune said.

 

Experiences at Ballard

Fortune has also said that she was amazed by the leadership skills the students have demonstrated. Contrary to what she experienced at her last job, high schoolers are able to handle more repertoire with less supervision and hand holding and are able to articulate what they need from their teacher.

“They have the independence to be able to be trusted working on their own for things at times,” said Fortune. “For instance, I can tell a group of students: here’s some music, you have a gig on Saturday at 11:30, please show up in black.”

Julian Whitworth
Elizabeth Fortune recently joined the Performing Arts Program as the new Orchestra Director after16 years at Washington Middle School.

In keeping with her goal of learning and retooling her brain, Fortune said that she has had to learn to step back, especially in regards to her advanced orchestra, and is continually practicing this skill.

 

Challenges and goals

Currently, Fortune teaches two orchestra levels: Chamber and Symphonic. Fortune hopes to revamp the program with the introduction of Concert Orchestra in the 2019-2020 school year.

“Symphonic is made up of people from all kinds of different skill levels, we even have students that are complete beginners this year,” said Fortune. “What I really hope for symphonic is that next year it moves to this advanced high school orchestra level; it can be the training ground for chamber.”

In addition to being new to teaching high school orchestra, Fortune is in charge of a piano class, guitar class, and credit retrieval class.

“Teaching new classes that I’ve never taught has definitely been a learning curve,” said Fortune. “I’ve had to learn to do these things on the fly.”

 

Expanding the program

Fortune is a proponent of having real life experiences in professional music for her students and because of this she has introduced several opportunities to play such as through the Wintergrass Festival.

Experiences such as these add to the traditional classical track that students are on. In Wintergrass, students developed their ability to jump in and learn music on the fly in order to backup a professional performer.

Both of the orchestras recently performed at a competition in Vancouver over Memorial Day Weekend and both received the highest rating, gold. In addition, Chamber Orchestra won Adjudicator Awards for scoring above a 95 with all judges.

“It was an amazing feeling, it’s been a blur getting from the beginning to the year to now, my brain has been completely revamped on what it is that these groups are capable of,” Fortune said. “They have shown me that they are capable of amazing things.”

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