New orchestra director Ryan Jensen joins music staff


Photo submitted by Kent Musser

Ryan Jensen has been hired to be the new Symphonic and Concert Orchestra conductor at SAHS. He joins the Varsity orchestra during their class period and conducts music with them.

Ella Hamilton, Social Media Editor

The Stillwater orchestra program learned changes were ahead on August 21. Orchestra director Zach Sawyer announced he was leaving Stillwater to move to the Boston area with his fiance to be closer to family. Nine months later, a new change for the orchestra program came when Ryan Jensen was introduced as the new orchestra director. 

This year has brought so much change in our high school, including Stillwater’s orchestra program. Due to Sawyer leaving, the spot for the orchestra director needed to be filled, and expectations were high.

Orchestra teacher Kent Musser describes some of the qualities they were looking for in a teacher: “student engagement, knowledge and skill on the podium, knowledge and skill on string instruments, and easy to work with, and someone who has a vision.”

After a timely interviewing process and meeting many candidates, the hiring committee narrowed down to six candidates. The next process consisted of questions about education and music related topics. Later on, there was a more intense questionnaire about teaching and specific scenarios and candidates had to submit a video of themselves playing their instrument. 

“We came up with I think six people that we wanted to interview and that was done in a Zoom meeting, and I think there were 10 people on the interview, or the hiring committee. Then we saw each candidate kind of one at a time and we spent about 45 minutes with each one of them,” Musser explained.

At last, the final step in the interviewing process was for three final chosen candidates to come into the orchestra classroom to show their skills. These candidates went to the Varsity Orchestra where they conducted students for 30 minutes in front of the hiring committee. 

I want to see what music can mean to them, and by simply just having me be some sort of facilitator in front of them. But, you know, unless I gain their respect and you know hopefully some respect as a leader.”

— Ryan Jansen

“Walking in here I had to really think of what I would want as a student to see on the podium. . .  I tried to make sure that it was a relaxed atmosphere so that students didn’t tense up and not show me their best effort to get time,” Jensen said. 

The students played a unique role as well in this process. The students in the Varsity Orchestra had the opportunity to experience all three candidates and give their perspectives after each interview where candidates practiced conducting.

Junior Eric Liveringhouse said after each candidate, students in the class had to fill out a Google Form and answer questions about each person and how they conducted.

Students gave a lot of positive feedback from Jensen’s conducting. They also indicated they were excited to get a new perspective on how other orchestra teachers conduct. 

“Mr. Jensen gave us a lot of constructive criticism, and he seemed like he knew what he was doing. . . it was kind of cool to see different people teach because you know I’ve had Mr. Musser and Mr. Sawyer teach me, so it was cool to see other people outside of Stillwater come and see what they did with the orchestra,” Liveringhouse said. 

Jensen said he is excited about being able “to really develop those relationships, first of all walking in the door as as a new teacher in a new experience, that has to that has to come before music, and then only after those relationships are built in, and everyone kind of understands where we’re at on the playing field, I really want to see how far I can push the group.”


Pull quote: “ I want to see what music can mean to them, and by simply just having me be some sort of facilitator in front of them. But, you know, unless I gain their respect and you know hopefully some respect as a leader.” Ryan Jensen