By Clare Driscoll ’19

This year the UA orchestra program welcomed a new teacher to their staff. Christopher Lape was hired to teach at the beginning of this school year because of the growth in the orchestra program over the past 13 years.

In 2004, Ed Zunic, one of the orchestra teachers at UAHS, began recording the number of orchestra members from fourth through twelfth grade. At that time there were only about 500 members. Since then, the orchestra program has continued to grow, reaching its all-time high with over 900 members as of fall 2017.

This continual growth came as a surprise to orchestra staff.

“It’s not what we’d expected but, you can’t always plan and we saw those numbers coming straight towards us,” Zunic said. “In 2013 when we dropped from 880 to about 800 students, we thought that that was our peak and we would just hover around those numbers for a while. The next year, we shot up to over 900 students, and our numbers have just been growing and growing ever since.”

Zunic attributes the large number of orchestra members to the low orchestra class drop rate from elementary school to middle school and middle school to high school.

“We usually loose about 50 percent of students from the first day of fourth grade to the last day of fifth grade. This is usually because they decide they want to do band or choir or they just decide it isn’t for them, which is completely normal. But, the past three years we’ve noticed that only 40 percent are dropping out, and once we get them into middle school the dropout rate is in the single digits,” Zunic said. “This year we recruited 300 fourth graders which really stretched us as a staff.”

This year has been the orchestra’s largest participation yet, so the program invited Christopher Lape to join the staff.

“It’s a great problem to have” Zunic said.“We only had 4 1/2 teachers and we knew we were going to have many scheduling problems by about the first or second week of the school year.”

The size of the orchestra has opened up many performance opportunities for the program. On Oct. 29, the orchestra will play their Halloween Spooktacular.

“Our Halloween concert is based around elementary school kids, and it’s a really fun time. Both the kids and the orchestra members dress up in costume, we play Halloween themes music like from Harry Potter and Jaws and at the very end we have a costume parade. Everybody in the audience who dresses up gets to parade around while the orchestra plays a march and while we hand out candy,” Zunic said.

The orchestra also has the opportunity to play with professional musicians from the Columbus Symphony,  the Columbus Brass Band, graduate students and Pro Musica for their philharmonic performance.

“We take this group of forty professional musicians and we rotate all of the orchestras across the stage. This lets the students play with winds brass and percussion, which is a very exciting thing for us,” Zunic said.

As for the future, the orchestra program is planning a trip to play at Disney next spring. During their trip the orchestra will have the opportunity to perform at one of the Disney kingdoms and have a recording session in a Disney studio.

In addition to Disney, the symphony orchestra has been invited perform as part of a youth orchestra festival in Scotland in the July of 2020.