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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Zachary Sawyer ecstatic to start his first year at WA on a good note

Connor Billington
Sawyer smiles with his violin in the band room.

Zachary Sawyer is WA’s new orchestra teacher, joining the music department staff with many years of musical experience. Recently, the Ghostwriter got a chance to interview him and unlock a few deeper insights into who Sawyer is as a person and how he’s liking his job so far.

Q: How are you enjoying your job so far this year at WA? How does it compare to other schools that you’ve worked at?

A: Well it’s a really high level place. High level students, administrators and teachers, and I’m really excited to be here. I can just sense this energy here. There’s this energy that students are engaged with everything that they’re doing. And it’s really cool. I’m really lucky to be a part of it.

Q: How did you become interested in teaching orchestra and how long have you been playing the double bass?

A: I’ve always loved music. My dad is not very musical at all but my mom was a musician. My grandparents were both music lovers. They took me to the local symphony and they really instilled in me this love of orchestral music. So I started playing bass in our public school orchestra program. And I just really fell in love with it immediately, and I started finding every opportunity to be involved in music within school. And outside of school, I was in tune with orchestras in addition to my school’s orchestra program. I don’t think I really ever considered a career outside of music to be honest.

Q: What majors did you take in school?

 A:  I started actually as a music performance major in undergrad, and I followed that track all the way through. But after about a year of music school, I realized that performing music was something that I love, but it wasn’t completely filling my job as far as interacting with other people [and] being engaged in a community. I needed a little bit more interaction with people. And so I added a second major in music education. And so I followed those tracks all the way through my bachelor’s degree. I graduated with an undergraduate in music performance and music education.

Q: Have you ever swapped instruments?

A: So bass has always been my primary instrument. Most teachers have an instrument that they would say is their primary instrument so I identify as a bass player I always have and I think I always will. But I’ve definitely learned a lot of other instruments. I’m fairly proficient on violin, viola and cello, because those are the instruments that I teach mostly in orchestra. I play piano. I play guitar as well, and I’m teaching guitar this year too. So if it has strings on it, I probably play it.

Q: On the Northeastern Massachusetts Youth Orchestras (NMYO) website, it says you have a “relationship first” approach to teaching, can you elaborate?

A: Some orchestra teachers are so passionate about the subject matter that they’re teaching that I feel like some people can lose sight of the fact that we’re teaching human beings. I think that in some cases I’ve seen this happen especially so in some music teachers, and to me, it’s most important to remember that we’re just all human beings in the same room together, and we’re doing music together. But what we’re really doing is creating your community and using music as a vehicle to do that.

Q: You teach piano and guitar as well, how long have you been studying those instruments? Which one is your favorite?

A: I would say no, I love all kinds of music. And there’s great music that’s been written for the piano, the guitar, it’s just such a versatile instrument. You can play anything on the guitar, so I don’t think I have a preference.

Q: What is your favorite age group to teach?

A: Well, let me let me say this so in my previous role I taught 3rd through 12th grade students in the same job in one day. Every single grade presents its own challenges and its own choice. High school students tend to be much more independent than other students. I don’t know if I would say I prefer high school students. I just found that I’ve been able to be successful in a setting like this.

Q:What are your hobbies outside of school?

A: Sure. I do. I love spending time outside cycling, skiing, specifically Nordic skiing, baking, reading, and traveling.

Q: What’s the best way for someone who doesn’t know how to play an instrument to learn or get into orchestra

A: I would say the best way is to find someone willing to teach you. That might seem obvious but there are a lot of YouTube tutorials online that can help you get started. If you’re watching a YouTube video online, you’re not getting any feedback. You’re just getting output from somebody talking. They’re not responding to what you’re doing at all, so find somebody- and it could be a fellow student or it could be a teacher.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add?

A: We’re going to have a really good time. I’d like to stay for a while and make the orchestra a bigger thing at the school. If a student walks in the door and says ‘I want to learn how to play the violin.’ I will do everything I can to make that happen for that student.

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About the Contributors
Marika Kanayama
Marika Kanayama, Staff Writer
Hi. My name is Marika Kanayama, and I am a sophomore at WA. It is my first year on the Ghostwriter staff. I sometimes like to read books, sleep and enjoy snacks. I also like to travel and enjoy learning new things. I am excited for what this year brings.
Connor Billington
Connor Billington, Staff Writer
Hi, my name is Connor Billington, and I am a freshman staff writer for the Ghostwriter. I enjoy writing, English is one my favorite subjects in school and I look forward to bringing the same enthusiasm to this newspaper. When I’m not in school, and I’m not doing homework, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, playing games, video and board alike, and listening to music. I also enjoy cross country skiing in the winter time. I can’t wait to make new friends during my first year on the Ghostwriter and further enhance my writing capabilities.

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    Debbie and Gil BillingtonOct 8, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    Great job Connor and Marika! Interesting and informative article.