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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Pitch Perfect: Mx. Emma deGraaf Aims To Foster Fond Memories and Learning as Assistant Choir Director

Courtesy of Emma deGraaf
Assistant Choir Director Mx. Emma deGraaf hopes to instill a passion for music and create fond memories in the choir department.

When they were in high school, Mx. Emma deGraaf practically lived in the choir room. In the mornings, during lunch, after school, and during class — they spent every opportunity they had observing other choirs, rehearsing for performances of their own, or just spending time with the choir community. Now, Mx. deGraaf returns to the choir room as the Assistant Choir Director with hopes of helping more students form similar fond memories.

Hailing from Houston, Mx. deGraaf found their passion for both learning and music at a young age. They began playing the piano in kindergarten and were involved with extracurricular choirs and musical theater programs in their community. In their freshman year of high school, they decided to take on choir.

“When I joined choir I was like, ‘I think this is it. I think it’s teaching choir, I think that’s what we’re doing,’” Mx. deGraaf said. “I really like the experience of working with other people and having [that] kind of joyful environment.”

The community that Mx. deGraaf found in choir propelled them to realize their passion for the arts and encouraged them to pursue teaching. They began teaching private lessons for kids in their community; however, the decision to become a teacher had been long in the making for Mx. deGraaf.

“I knew I wanted to teach when I was in fifth grade and did a math camp kind of project where the fifth graders led math games for the whole school, and it was a lot of fun,” Mx. deGraaf said.

Before coming to Westwood, Mx. deGraaf taught at Hernandez Middle School for two years. 

“My goal has always been [to teach] high school. Unfortunately for new teachers, once you graduate, it can be really difficult to break into the high school arena, because a lot of head directors, rightfully so, want someone who has some experience so that it’s a bit easier to co-teach instead of a mentor-mentee situation,” Mx. deGraaf said. “I had my two years of experience at Hernandez, and pieces just kind of fell into place, and [it felt like] it was probably time to move on up and see what happens.”

Now as the Assistant Director at Westwood, Mx. deGraaf is focused on learning as much as they can and creating a joyful and supportive environment in the choir department for all of the students. 

“In high school, there [are] so many options, [so] if they choose your class, they really want to be there,” Mx. deGraaf said. “It’s very, very different already, just in the vibes and the general work ethic.” 

Expanding on their duties in the classroom, Mx. deGraaf has taken on the role of one of the main sponsors of Audacity, Westwood’s show choir. 

“I think that’s going to be a lot of fun, [specifically] having the opportunity to work with people that aren’t particularly in choir because you don’t have to be to do Audacity,” Mx. deGraaf said. 

Outside of teaching choir, Mx. deGraaf has a myriad of other passions including knitting, sewing, ceramics, and cosplay. They are also part of a community choir and a member of various temporary bands through an organization called Femme Rock, which empowers women and non-binary adults to gain confidence in their musical abilities. Gravitating towards all things music, they also play an impressive assortment of instruments.

“I play piano, and I sing. I play the guitar and the ukulele. [I play] the cone, which is like an acoustic drum. And then I play the drum kit. And I am slowly but surely learning the violin right now,” Mx. deGraaf said.

As Mx. deGraaf comes back to the choir room now as a teacher, they have the same hopes that they did as a freshman in high school to continue learning and make the most of their time in the department. In the process, they hope to instill the same passion they have for music in their students.  

“The choir room was always where my fond memories were,” Mx. deGraaf said. “I don’t expect all of my students to pursue music education, but if I can maybe inspire them to keep music in their life somehow, then I’ll know that I did what I wanted to do.”


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Mayla Montgomery
Mayla Montgomery, Reporter
Class of 2026
I have always had a passion for writing and telling stories, and I am so excited to be working on press this year! When I’m not writing, I love watching my favorite shows, watching all the horror movies in existence, reading books, listening to music, and spending time with my friends and family.

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