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Pictured from left are Amanda Elfrink, Kimm Washburn, Brian Cosner, Laura Olinger, Mark Hatter, Amber Petersen, Jared Wonnacott, Marla Cosner, Simon Austin, and Heidi Miller-Costanzo / Courtesy Photo

SSUSD musicians showcase ‘Why I Teach’

Sierra Sands Unified School District– The musical artistry of nine teachers in the growing Sierra Sands Unified School District music department will be on display Saturday, Aug. 19, when the community is invited to attend “And This Is Why I Teach …,” a free concert at 4 p.m. at the Ridgecrest United Methodist Church.

The recital celebrates not only the expansion of music programs in our secondary schools and the reintroduction of music into elementary schools but the talent and dedication each of these musicians brings to their crafts.

“A few months ago, one of our Music Boosters’ parents suggested that our Burroughs High School (BHS) directors perform for a fund-raising concert,” recalled Amber Petersen, who directs the choirs and orchestras at Burroughs High School.

“There are so many times we have to ask our community for money to support our student programs; I was a little reluctant to take that on.”

Then, as she began to see the four teachers recruited to teach the elementary program and the new instructor hired to teach at Monroe Middle School, “I thought, what would be inspiring is a chance to introduce all of our music teachers to the community.

“It’s very exciting to see our district and our community invest in K-12 music programs, but I think it’s equally amazing to see the caliber of teachers presenting music instruction to our youth.”

Petersen floated the idea to the other teachers during their first meeting at the beginning of the summer. “Everyone was excited to collaborate!”

The concert’s theme is to allow the music teachers to share what inspired them to pursue their careers. But it is also a reflection of the culture in music education.

Mark Hatter and Laura Olinger, who are married, have spent a combined 40 years teaching secondary-level music in our schools and, for most of that time, have performed with various community groups as well. Hatter on trombone and Olinger on cello will perform solo and ensemble pieces at the upcoming recital.

Other current teachers include Petersen (mezzo-soprano and stand-up bass) and BHS band director Brian Cosner (brass-percussion-baritone). Jared Wonnacott (trombone) has been hired to instruct the middle school band. Incoming elementary music teachers include Heidi Miller-Costanzo (flute-piccolo), Marla Cosner (soprano-viola), Kimm Washburn (clarinet-piano) and Amanda Elfrink (viola-piano).

Many new and incoming teachers also have family, church, and friend connections that have given them years — even decades — of experience making music together.

“I don’t think anyone planned this, but I also think it’s fascinating to see how our team brings a strong mixture of voice, brass, woodwind, and string specialists,” said Petersen.

“We are so fortunate to live in a community that has attracted so many gifted performers and that so many of them have chosen to give back by teaching.”

To know the “Why” for each of these teachers, visit the Facebook Event Page (under BHS Music Boosters). While admission to the concert is free, seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis. A short reception will follow the performance.