Seniors say goodbye to Troubadours


Roman Odintsov

String instruments hanging upon a rack.

Prajana Sriram and Alice Guo

As the end of the 2020-2021 school year draws near, seniors of Westford Academy are saying their goodbyes to friends, classmates, teachers, clubs, and sports teams. Previously, seniors have chosen to stay in clubs until June but as a result of the pandemic and efforts to cut down the number of students in an area at a given time to ensure proper social distancing, seniors are opting out of clubs sooner than usual. Troubadours is one club that many students, now seniors, have been heavily involved in for all four years of their time at Westford Academy.

Troubadours is an after-school program that plays orchestral music together on Friday afternoons and shares it with the community. Members of Troubadours play a variety of classical, jazz, pop, and other fun pieces. Troubadours started in 2012 as an ensemble consisting of middle and high schoolers. It was put together by the middle school orchestra director, Julie Ottesen, and high school orchestra director, Ken Culver. Due to difficulty arranging joint rehearsal times for both the high school and middle school students, Troubadours eventually became a program for only Westford Academy students. Some current seniors in Troubadours have been a part of the program since sixth grade. 

Troubadours is more than practicing the drills and scales. It is rather a space where the main goal is making music that everyone enjoys playing and listening to. Additionally, there are smaller chamber groups that members partake in, which allows them to socialize with small groups of friends even while socially distanced.

“Orchestra classes are sort of learning and self enrichment […] and it tends to be more about [preparing for] epic concerts.  Troubadours has much more of a social function and it’s about taking music to people and having it be live music […],” Culver said. 

He went on to describe that Troubadours exposes the social part of being a string player, stating that being a member of Troubadours allows for members to build off on one another and share ideas. When members split into sectionals it is beneficial because it is more individual so someone can ask for help on a certain part when they have trouble. They can use their peers to help them get better.

“I think that it helps everyone’s motivation. I think it makes everyone feel good about what they are doing, [which is] significant,” Culver said.

The experience of participating in Troubadours is different and special for each ensemble member, and everyone is able to gain something different out of it. 

Dan Stewart, a cello-player who had been playing for Troubadours during his entire high school career, describes the importance of Troubadours to him. He highlights that among the pressure and expectations in high school, such clubs that offer a chance to truly relax while doing something you love. 

“Troubs just always seemed to be a place and ensemble without tension. Even though we sometimes play difficult music, I never felt stressed or nervous about it, and that is always greatly welcomed in the mountain of stress that is high school sometimes,” Stewart said. 

Other seniors have described additional benefits and aspects of Troubadours that they will miss, including the opportunity to socialize with their friends and the special culture of making and enjoying music with a comfortable group of people. Although it can be intimidating to meet and make friends in the beginning, seniors have reflected that, by the end of their time in the club, the members of Troubadours have become a tightly-woven family. The ability of Troubadours to combine friendship with music has drawn many students to participate week after week. Ivan Sung comments on this unique aspect of the club. 

“[I’ve gotten the chance to] make some pretty good friends [in Troubs] and […] dive into challenging repertoire with a smaller group of people that I got to know pretty well, from both a musical standpoint and a friendship kind of standpoint,” Sung said. 

In a normal year without the COVID precautions, Troubadours members would go to senior centers or other places where people could socialize and listen to live music. For many students, this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Troubadours. 

“It’s really nice […]. It may [only] be seven people but their appreciation of it is really special. It’s really nice that we are doing something special for them and they recognize that and appreciate it,” Culver said.