The Catalyst

A standing ovation: Orchestra instructor retires after 23 years of teaching

Jaxon Parker, Staff Writer

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Since its opening in 1995, Millard West has been recognized for its excellence in education and challenging students to perform their best. In its beginning, Millard West hit the ground running by hiring on ambitious educators ready to teach, one of them being orchestra instructor Pat Ritchie. After working with the Millard community for 23 years, Ritchie has decided to retire, but not without leaving a legacy of inspired and talented student musicians prepared for taking on college and beyond.  

Ritchie’s teaching career at Millard West began when she moved to Nebraska and was hired by Rick Kolowski to become the orchestra instructor for the brand new school.

“When we started the orchestra program here there were 33 students, which was a lot,” Ritchie said. “That was a wonderful number to start with, and over the years the choir, band and orchestra programs have all grown.”

Although the number of participants skyrocketed in the musical programs, Ritchie has managed to educate and support thousands of students throughout the years.

“I’ve never had a music teacher that’s cared about their students like Mrs. Ritchie,” senior Riha Karney said. “She likes to find unique ways to make music and learning fun.”
A part of Ritchie’s technique to help engage students in orchestra is by changing up different styles of music and having different themed concerts every year.

“We had a rock concert this year that was probably the best concert I’ve ever played, because the music was so different,” Karney said. “She exposes us to different styles. She’s

really open to not just the classical music, but jazz, fiddling and swing music.”
Not only does Ritchie help keep students passionate about music by changing up different music styles, but she helps encourage her students to perform their very best on stage.

“Mrs. Ritchie is one of the main reasons I’ve never even considered quitting orchestra,” junior Tessa Sutfin said. “She constantly encourages me, so it helped me drive my passion for the violin.”

Other students such as junior Andrew McKenna were pushed by Ritchie to step out of their comfort zone to have their potential fulfilled.

“Last year she encouraged me to try out for All-State, even though I didn’t feel ready for it, but it makes me want to do it again next year so I can do better,” McKenna said.
As Ritchie finishes her last year as the orchestra instructor, her students organized a farewell address by playing a video and sharing countless memories of their passion for music and endearment for their mentor.

“There’s a lot of things I will dearly miss,” Ritchie said. “I absolutely love to see students catch on fire with their music, I love it when they feel proud after a performance. I love to see the friendships and the mentoring that goes on between the students.”

Although this is her final year at Millard West, her teachings have impacted the lifetimes of thousands of students, as they’ve been inspired to deepen their passion for music, love for others and confidence within themselves.

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A standing ovation: Orchestra instructor retires after 23 years of teaching