Dr. Colleen Bertsch to take over as interim Concert Orchestra director

Dr. Colleen Bertsch is announced as the interim Concert Orchestra director for third quarter. In an email sent to students in Concert Orchestra, she gave an introductory message.

Photo submitted by Colleen Bertsch

Dr. Colleen Bertsch is announced as the interim Concert Orchestra director for third quarter. In an email sent to students in Concert Orchestra, she gave an introductory message.

Alex Steil, Online Editor-in-Chief

Principal Rob Bach sent an email to members of the Concert Orchestra on Jan. 13, announcing that Dr. Colleen Bertsch will be the interim music director during third quarter.

Bertsch is an adjunct lecturer at St. Olaf College and Augsburg University and was previously the Director of Orchestra Programs at Roseville Area High School, according to the email. As a lecturer, she teaches ethnomusicology and historical music the email goes on to read. As a member of the self-formed Orkestar Bez Ime, she was awarded a 2011 McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians and a 2012 Minnesota Emerging Composers Award from the American Composers Forum.  

“The majority of music classes in Minnesota’s public schools focus on western tonal traditions, like classical, jazz, Americana, and rock genres. My approach is going to be slightly different,” Bertsch said about her background. “I will be presenting the western classical orchestra tradition within the context of historical and non-western musical systems so that we can explore what makes music-making the same around the world.”

Bertsch’s arrival comes at a time of instability for the orchestra. Zach Sawyer, who had been the director five years prior, abruptly resigned a few weeks before the school year started. Sawyer’s predecessor, Jerry Jones, came back to teach during first quarter.

Even though students were angry and disappointed at the beginning of the year regarding Sawyer’s departure, they grew to appreciate and value Jones and his style. Bertsch will pick up the torch left by Jones, such as leading in an ensemble and being a life learner.

I’m thinking in terms of action and leadership: what you do matters. Your actions make things happen, not just in your personal life, but in your community and, by extension, in the world.”

— Colleen Bertsch

“I’m thinking in terms of action and leadership: what you do matters. Your actions make things happen, not just in your personal life, but in your community and, by extension, in the world,” Bertsch said.

Even though students have yet to work with Bertsch, the Concert Orchestra Officers have already met with her to exchange ideas and information on how the next quarter will look.

“When I first met her, I thought she was so cool,” Concert Orchestra co-president Olivia Hovland said. “Just how she presented herself, I thought that she seemed like really easy going. She seemed like she was really willing to cooperate.”

Hovland added, “You know, it’s gonna be kind of weird because with everything that’s happening because we’ve had two teachers within the past year now. I think at first, it might be kind of hard for us to adapt to her teaching style, but I feel like people wind up really liking her.”

While Jones had unique challenges, such as building up an ensembles’ rapport from scratch,  and planning around the two orchestras only being able to meet on their respective A or B days, Bertsch will have to find ways to keep the orchestra engaged online.

Even with all of the online challenges the orchestra will face, Bertsch is still confident about the tenacity of her orchestra. 

“The orchestra students are known for taking their musical training seriously and being highly engaged in the orchestra community,” Bertsch said. “From a teacher’s viewpoint, one who cares deeply about teaching others how to be life-long learners, I am most excited to work on the concept of ensemble and what it means to be a musical human being.”