Senior Student Projects That Are Giving Back Through Music

Three graduating seniors at Orcas Island High School have each embarked on a musically-focused senior project as their way to give back to the music-loving Orcas community that has supported their musical development while at the public school.

Dishwashing to opera music 

Luke Pietsch was first introduced to opera fortuitously, while working as a dishwasher at Red Rabbit Farm last summer.  “Every night, my boss would put on opera music, and I found I was fascinated,” recounted Luke.  “We would listen to dramatic stories sung in languages that I didn’t understand.’’  Luke would have fun making up his own stories before the radio host explained the scene for listeners.

That fascination led Luke to suggest to Band Director Darren Dix that the High School Band make a trip to see Seattle Opera’s staging of Il Trovatore in January 2019.   The Music Advocacy Group (MAG) and Orcas Island Education Foundation funded the excursion and it turned out to be an unforgettable night that helped ignite greater interest in opera among his peers in the band.

For his senior project, Luke is organizing an opera-themed fundraising concert, with the twin goals of bringing a bit of opera to Orcas and raising funds to take the band to experience Seattle Opera’s production of Carmen this May.  Luke, who plays the trumpet in the band, will be conducting for the first time, as well as sharing plot explanations of the medley of themes from Carmen, performed by a ten-piece High School band with Mr. Dix on the saxophone.

The concert, on Friday, May 3, 7pm, at the Community church, is free and open to the public. Donations are appreciated and will go towards the $800 that Luke estimates is needed for the trip.

“The Eastsound Yomp”

It may sound like a curious title for a senior project, but French horn player Tim Jenson considers it a fitting description of the score he has composed for the Orcas Island Community Band.  “The word yomp is a British army phrase for a long trek with weighty equipment,” according to Tim, “and it literally stands for Your Own Marching Pace.”  His original composition is indeed a Sousa-eqsue march.

“I have always enjoyed composing, and I wanted to give something back to the Community Band, which has supported me and my family since we moved to the island,” said Tim, whose parents and sister all perform with the band.  This is the first time that Tim has composed a piece for such a large ensemble.  It is also his first experience of conducting the Community Band. “I am extremely grateful for the support from Karen Key Speck, Darren Dix, and the High School and Community bands.”

Tim will be conducting “The Eastsound Yomp” at the upcoming Community Band concert on Thursday, June 13, at 7pm, at the Orcas Center. It is worth a yomp to support this bright young musician who has done Orcas proud at many regional festivals and has been accepted at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen.

Private violin lessons 

“I wanted to do something involving music for my senior project because of how much music means to me; I wanted to give back to the community that has supported me immensely and share my love of music with others,” explained Paris Wilson, a graduating senior in High School Strings who has been selected twice to play at Carnegie Hall in New York and has performed with ensembles in concert venues around the world.

For her senior project, Paris has committed to giving weekly hour-long private violin lessons to four elementary and middle school Strings students for eight weeks.  She is asking that the nominal lesson fees of $40 for each of the 8-lesson sessions  be donated to MAG, the non-profit that helps fund the public school’s music program.

This is Paris’s first experience of teaching music.  She is planning a small recital in mid-May where her students will demonstrate some of the skills they have worked on.  “I’ve discovered that I thoroughly enjoy teaching kids, especially the ones who are dedicated and committed to doing their best and improving. It’s so gratifying when a student comes to their lesson with a full practice sheet.”


Senior projects are a requirement for graduation at Orcas High School and year after year, our young men and women come up with projects that are wide-ranging in scope and creative in the ways to give back to their community.

To support our student musicians, come to these upcoming concerts!

Luke’s High School Band Opera Fundraising Concert — Friday, May 3 at 7pm,  Community Church

All District Strings Concert — Wednesday, May 8 at 7pm, Orcas Center

All District Band Concert — Thursday, May 30 at 7pm, High School Gym

Elementary Music Concert — Thursday, June 6 at 6:30pm, High School Gym

Community Band Concert — Thursday, June 13 at 7pm, Orcas Center