BY COURTNEY DITTO
Every Wednesday, around 3:30 p.m., the sounds from instruments such as violin, piano and bass fill the halls of the TI building. It was in the building, where a little over a year ago, the first Washtenaw Technical Middle College orchestra was created with the help of many, especially one WTMC student.
18-year-old WTMC student Juliana Patselas, who started playing music at the age of four, helped to evolve what was first only a club, into a class. Middle College Music Club is offered to WTMC students, and Patselas states it’s attracted about 23 students of the WTMC population.
“A lot of students came to the WTMC program just for the chance to play,” Patselas said. “I know I was on the fence about it just because the orchestra meant so much to me.” According to Patselas, there were some students who weren’t sure about attending WTMC because of its lack of an orchestra the importance of them wanting to be involved – now, there is one.
Led by music instructor John Edwartowski and music coach Jerry Robbins, the club plays a number of genres, ranging from ragtime to pop, and Edwartowski states he wants his students to be able to pick out their favorite song and make an arrangement for them to play themselves. Edwartowski speaks of an arrangement their class has been currently working on, saying that it requires a “a bit more knowledge and experience.”
“What I’m trying to show them is that there’s more to music than just sitting on stage with a stand in front of you and repeating it,” Edwartowski said.
Being established as a class, students enrolled will have the opportunity to take field trips to places like Concordia University to visit their pipe organ, and many other places to provide students with a chance to expand their knowledge of music and leadership. Patselas says this increases student leadership amongst the club members, which to her, is most important.
“We’re not just learning music, we’re not just playing music,” Patselas said. “We’re actually doing something with it, and that’s kind of special.”
Despite being unable to compete with other high schools due to WTMC not being part of an established high school district, the club continues to put on fundraisers and concerts, such as their Christmas concert last year. The Music Club focuses mostly on “community outreach,” according to Patselas, and plays throughout the community – a small example being their performances in places such as the mall and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.
Last year’s Christmas concert was comprised of many arrangements, all put together by Patselas, who remains as the founder and leader of the club. In meetings, she fronts all news and encourages her classmates to continue working hard. Early in the making of the club, Patselas wrote and obtained a $1,200 grant, the use of which she helps delegate.
It was solely thanks to Patselas’ love for music that started the club, and in the first semester of its existence only a year ago, Patselas states that nobody in the club knew how to write music, and that the members found themselves looking online for sheet music to play.
Shortly after the club became a class, Patselas says that’s when she knew it was “sustainable,” and would last past her time. Patselas says the club is even working on their own sentimental school song for the club to play during the upcoming graduation ceremonies.
“My motivation was that there wasn’t anything here for the students, and now there is,” said Patselas. “It’s not perfect, it’s not anything like a real orchestra, but it’s getting there and it could be if people keep trying to make it happen.”
After graduation, Patselas hopes to continue her musical studies, and would like to pursue a career in arts management. Although Patselas has made dynamic strides in leaving her own mark on WCC, she speaks with high hopes of her classmates continuing to rehearse and gain momentum after she walks across the stage.
Patselas said her main struggle is knowing she is in an industry that isn’t necessarily the highest-earning field. As the child of engineers, she grew up hearing the infamous “there’s no money in that,” but her strength and passion for music have continued vigorously.
“Music is my life. Outside of music, I don’t do much else. It’s part of being a music major: outside of that, you can’t imagine doing anything else,” stated Patselas.