NHS Music Evolves with Combined Orchestra



The combined NHS orchestra will take the feats of combining the strings and wind musicians to the next level. Last year, the music department experimented with combining the groups, and because of the group’s success being merged, the classes were merged to form a full orchestra.

Madelynn Orosz, Ag/FFA Editor

Publisher’s note: A previous version of this story reported that there were about 15 students enrolled in instrumental music classes before the 2019-20 school year. In fact, records in PowerSchool indicate that 18 students were initially enrolled in band (the class ended with 16 students) and seven more were in string ensemble. This story has been updated to reflect the correct numbers. The Chief Advocate apologizes for this error.

WOODBURY — When Dr. Jason Bouchard stepped onto the scene in the Nonnewaug music department at the start of the 2019-20 school year, there were 25 instrumental musicians split among two classes. Today, there are 32 instrumental musicians, ranging from the flute to the bass and everything in between.

The rise in numbers over the past couple of years wasn’t an accident; it was all about the careful planning for the evolution of the program. 

Originally, the music department was split among three main classes: band, string orchestra and choir. This was three separate periods of the day that were hard to split among students that may play multiple instruments or sing and play an instrument. Bouchard had a solution. 

“It was my decision to merge the separate band and strings groups,” said Bouchard. “It was the next step in the program. The past two years, we have done combined performances and the students really enjoyed [playing in a larger group] and wanted to do more.” 

The combined orchestra class has allowed students of string and wind instruments to collaborate together on a variety of genres of music and create friendships in a positive environment to learn and create music.

“[The combined group] has provided the ability for people to settle in a comfortable environment and learn their instrument,” said senior Nicole Dionne. “It went from separation to unity, and I’m excited to see how everyone grows together into better musicians.” 

The merging of string and wind instrument students will allow the program to pursue more performances and events with the increased numbers. 

Instrumental music students participate in a variety of events including Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Bethlehem and Woodbury Christmas tree lightings, basketball games, pep rallies, music festivals and more. Word of the 17 different performances scheduled for the 2022-23 school year has also increased buzz for the program and has been an encouragement for kids to come back. 

“The increase in performances has come with the growth of the program,” added Bouchard. 

The growth of the program has relied on students returning to their instruments that they may have given up or taken breaks from over the years. 

Kaia Zupnick, a junior, took a year off from the program for chorus, but then realized she missed the instrumental music aspect of the program and came back this year. 

“I pretty much grew up with music. It’s been a passion of mine since I was 2,” Zupnick said. “After taking [a year] off, I realized that I miss that feeling at the end of a piece, that satisfaction of the sound lingering from all of the instruments.”

The instrumental musicians thrived off the attention and praise from members of the community as they marched for the first time this past spring. Their confidence gained from the community support has allowed them to push their friends to join as well and build up the program. (contributed)

A reason students have the feeling of excitement and joy after finishing a piece is because of those who come out to support them – the community.

“The community has responded positively from seeing the group out and preforming, and the students have also enjoying going out and performing and seeing the amount of people who come out to support,” added Bouchard. 

Through community events such as the tree lightings, students have been able to inspire young students to start learning instruments, which will allow future generations of musicians to go through the music department at Nonnewaug.

Music department students who are part of the Tri-M Music Honor Society also have opportunities to give lessons to students at Woodbury Middle School to encourage them to keep learning and joining the orchestra at the high school. 

“As a student going to pursue music after high school, watching the music program grow each year has always been reassuring, that there will always be a kid to teach and there will always be people who love music the way I do,” said Emily Lungarini, a senior and president of Tri-M.

The newly established NHS orchestra is excited to see what the year has in store for them as they continue to evolve as individual musicians and as a program. They will kick off their performance schedule with the Veterans’ Day ceremony during the school day Nov. 9.