Orchestra: More Than Just a Music Class


Adisak Prasannet, Reporter

Music is often seen as a form of art that brings people together.  With the largest high school orchestra in the state, this is very much true at West Anchorage High School.

There are two types of orchestra classes: Concert and Symphonic. If students are looking for a slower paced class or recently began playing an instrument, they should choose Concert Orchestra. If students are looking for an advanced orchestra that plays challenging music, they should choose Symphonic, which requires an audition. This orchestra usually plays advanced pieces, unlike the Concert Orchestra, which plays intermediate pieces. Concert Orchestra has two class sections while Symphonic Orchestra only has one class section.

Gabrielle Whitfield, the orchestra director and West alumna, teaches both Symphonic and Concert Orchestra. Whitfield has been teaching orchestra for 14 years and currently teaches at West High and Bayshore Elementary School. Whitfield’s first instrument that she picked up was the violin, which was her main instrument since the fourth grade.

Whitfield became inspired to become an orchestra teacher during her freshman year at West.  She thought that being the conductor would be cool and was excited to work with small groups of students.  According to Whitfield, she aims her classes for fun, she wants her students to enjoy themselves and have the best day while maintaining some discipline.

“This is more like, you’ve got to be diligent [while playing in orchestra], but you also want to have fun,” Whitfield said. Multiple students will agree that orchestra allows for creativity and enjoyment on a different level.

Freshman Valentina Artemyeva, a violinist in Concert Orchestra, agrees that orchestra class is one of her favorite subjects in school.  Artemyeva been playing the violin for four years.

Artemyeva joined orchestra because her entire family also played instruments and she wanted to try to pick one up. “I always wanted to play the electric bass because my grandfather played it,” Artemyeva said. When it was time to pick an instrument in sixth grade, she picked the violin as her first instrument because she said it “looked cool.”

Shannon Morgan, a sophomore, has played the violin for nearly six years and is first chair of the second violins in Symphonic Orchestra.  “I enjoy the community and support Orchestra provides,” Morgan says. Morgan intends to continue practicing the violin through college and beyond.

Brandon David Joseph, who is a part of the Concert Orchestra, plays the viola. Joseph chose to play in orchestra because a friend of his signed up for the class. Originally, he signed up to play the violin, but his sixth grade teacher needed more violas, so he had to play the viola. He has stuck with it since sixth grade and is now a junior.

The next orchestra concert is May 10th at West High. It will be rock-n- roll themed, with songs by Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.