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New Vertically Aligned 6-12 Instrumental Music Programs

In a recent change middle school instrumental music director, Laura Sarché, has been introduced as the new orchestra director for the high school.
Orchestra teacher Laura Sarché held a booth at the Future Lobos Night, on January 10, to meet new incoming students and introduce herself as the new head of the orchestra program at Conifer. The orchestra and band programs held separate booths at the event, each manned by their new respective teachers. “I know that the middle school band kids are going to love Mr. Cartner and I’m super beyond thrilled to be working with high school string kids,” Sarché said. Photo by Isabella Hess

Every year mountain area 4th grade students are invited to an instrumental music program, where they preview the possibility of taking up an instrument in either orchestra or band. Those that do, enter the music program at the elementary school, which brings together musicians from all of Conifer’s feeder schools. For two years they play under Jonathan Weedman, learning the ins and outs of instrumental music. Once they continue to middle school those that decide to continue their journey with the lyrical world are taught by none other than Laura Sarché. After middle school, they continue to study under Sean Cartner in high school. 

However, in a recent change, Sarché has been brought up to the high school to teach orchestra while Sean Cartner has been sent down to teach band at the middle school. This new system creates a vertical alignment of the instrumental music programs, where one director will teach from 6th to 12th grade. 

“What happens when you vertically align is you become your own leader, so you know what to be teaching, how to recruit, or how to help the students develop those high-level skills,” Sarché said.

Sarché has been the band and orchestra teacher at West Jefferson Middle School for 24 years and while she will be continuing working at the middle school she will be giving up her responsibilities in the band world. The band includes brass, woodwinds, and percussionists while the orchestra features the stringed instruments of the symphonic world. Similarly, Cartner will now only be teaching band at West Jeff and Conifer, but for now will be maintaining his role as choir director. 

“I have a lot of feelings because though I’m so excited about it and excited to work on my expertise in the string world, I am sad to not be teaching my band students. There’s a piece of it where I feel some guilt around it,” Sarché said.

The biggest roadblock to making this transition happen was the differences between schedules for the two schools. While both schools start and end at similar times, Conifer runs on a block schedule while West Jefferson has shorter classes that are held every day. To accommodate for these differences Sarché will be teaching at the middle school in the mornings while Cartner will be at the high school and they will switch schools in the afternoon. 

The color guard marches through the gym doors, leading the way for the CHS Marching Band. At the end of every curriculum showcase, which makes up an hour of Future Lobo Night, the marching band makes an appearance to herald in the end of the event and move people into the cafeteria for a presentation by Principal Gregory Manier.
Photo by Isabella Hess

“It’s going to be interesting to see her teaching style as a high school teacher and not just as a middle school teacher and vice versa for Mr. Cartner,” Conifer junior Sarah Harker said.

Harker plays the harp in the orchestra and is a member of the color guard in the marching band, and next year will be learning under both instructors. The marching band class has been moved to first thing in the morning and so have their out-of-school practices, which will now start at 7:30, to work around Cartner’s new schedule with the high school.

“That’s going to help out a lot of students who maybe do fall sports, scouts, theater stuff, or they have jobs, so now that’s less scheduling conflicts,” Cartner said.

To help the middle school band students adjust to a new director, Cartner will be going down to teach a class at the middle school twice a month to get better acquainted with the students. While he is gone Sarché will be covering his classes at the high school.

A big motivation for this change was a decline in enrollment across Jeffco schools, seen especially in arts programs.

“We really wanted to think strategically about making sure that our arts programs are very supported, and that we can use the very best pedagogy when it comes to staffing in those positions,” Assistant Principal Becky Paschke said.

Pascke, who used to be the instrumental music teacher at D’Evelyn, taught under a vertically aligned program while there. D’Evelyn caters to grades 6-12 and as director Pasckhe was in charge of teaching every grade level. This unique situation allowed her to cater her programs to each class as well as preview future years to them, allowing her to build a very successful program.

While this is a big change for the local music programs directors Cartner and Sarché hope that it will allow them to build up their collective music programs, increasing both retention and overall skill level. This new structure will allow each director to focus on their specialty and follow musicians through their musical journey.

“Change is going to be hard for everybody, but change isn’t always bad,” Sarché said.

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