The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Orchestra Director Colleen Whatley Guides Students through Journey of Music

Ms. Colleen Whatley serves as the new director of Westwood Orchestra.
Ms. Colleen Whatley serves as the new director of Westwood Orchestra.

The theremin, an instrument that isn’t heard of by most and played by almost none, is Ms. Colleen Whatley’s favorite instrument of all. Due to its electronic qualities and contactless nature, it comes as a surprise that Ms. Whatley’s musical career strays more towards the classical element of music: orchestra. Accumulating 15 years of experience teaching orchestra, Ms. Whatley is here to make a mark on Westwood Orchestra as the new director.

Despite her prodigious experience in the craft, Ms. Whatley’s path towards finding this love for music looked rather different than the average musician’s, with her first exposure to music being later in middle school.

“I didn’t have a piano background or anything like that,” Ms. Whatley said. “I started playing bass at Chisholm Trail Middle School, so that was my first experience playing music.”

From there, she has taught at over four schools, working with students from every grade level. Her earlier experiences entailed teaching at an elementary school in a program with over 220 students, all by herself before moving on to teach middle school.

“It was so much fun teaching elementary, [but] it was really difficult to teach that many kids by myself,” Ms. Whatley said. “There aren’t very many elementary strings programs, so I was kind of on my own. I wanted to be part of a community, which is why I went to middle school.”

In the short time Ms. Whatley has been at Westwood, she has already been playing an integral role in the orchestra community. She currently teaches three out of the six orchestra blocks: Philharmonic, Concert, and the beginning strings group. In each of these classes, she has many goals in mind to instill growth in Westwood Orchestra as a whole.

“One of my goals is to learn every kid’s name in the orchestra program,” Ms. Whatley said. “But also, I really want to just get comfortable here and become a seamless part of the orchestra community [to] support all of the students in their musical growth.”

Currently, Ms. Whatley finds herself extremely excited for the upcoming performances of her students to showcase their hard work both during and outside of class.

“[Something] I love about high school versus middle school is [that] the calendar is a little different,” Ms. Whatley said. “We have October concerts to start off the year with a big push to perform at the very beginning, so that’s really motivating.¨

Apart from her musical influence on her students, Ms. Whatley has gotten to know her students on a more personal level as well. Transitioning from working with middle schoolers to high schoolers, she has noticed minor differences between these age groups.

“If anything is different, it’s the sense of humor,” Ms. Whatley said. “The way kids carry themselves is a little bit different, but other than that, people are people.”

All in all, Ms. Whatley cannot wait to continue fostering children’s love for music both inside and outside of the orchestra room.

“This is where my heart is,” Ms. Whatley said. “I love teaching and I love music. It’s the perfect combination of both of my passions.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Mahek Sureka, Yearbooker
Class of 2026 I love to play soccer and do robotics. I’m on the lady cans team. My current favorite show is 13 reasons why but it changes on a daily basis. I’m the kind of person who spends way too much time on social media ESPECIALLY snap. I love Student Press cause it’s a different community that I’m used to being around. Everyone is so passionate and I love that. I can’t wait for what the year will bring!!

Comments (0)

Westwood Student Press intends for this comment area to foster welcoming, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards.
All Westwood Horizon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *