A New Beginning – Orchestra Director Makes A Distinct First Impression

Nandini Dasari

Fresh out of college, Ms. Olivia Hahn jumped into the next chapter of her life. While many of her peers began work at corporate jobs, Hahn chose to go back to school… that is, high school. 

After graduating in May from the music education program at UNT, Hahn began her first teaching job in August, pursuing her dream role as associate director of the high school orchestra.  

“[This job] was actually the first offer that I got. I did interview for middle schools and other high school positions, but this is the first one that was offered to me, and I’m really glad that I took it,” Hahn said. 

Hahn grew up in Carrollton, Texas and attended Newman Smith High School. She came from a musical family and was heavily involved in orchestra programs beginning in sixth grade. 

“My mom did choir, and my dad dabbles in playing bass sometimes, but they played music around the house all the time. They enrolled me and my sister in piano lessons when we were really young, and then string lessons when middle school started,” Hahn said.

Hahn has played the viola, her first instrument, for about 12 years. She knew that she wanted to teach from a young age, her enthusiasm a result of eagerness to pass along knowledge to others and “being the smartest person in the room.”

“I actually went kind of back and forth when I was in high school. Like did I want to teach orchestra? Or maybe Japanese or theater?” Hahn said.

Ultimately, her subject of choice became orchestra, stemming from a gravitation toward hands-on learning and the influence of strong role models.

“In high school my [orchestra director] was Lamar Smith, and he’s just been such a great mentor. I actually taught with him [last semester], and I think I take a lot of my teaching inspiration and teaching style from him,” Hahn said.

Hahn said that her transition to teaching has been relatively easy, attributing her initial successes to the guidance of head orchestra director, Mr. Stephen Clink, and the support of the school community.

“The whole fine arts program here has been really welcoming to me as a new teacher, and so I have only great things to say for how I’ve been able to incorporate myself,” Hahn said. 

Hahn has been teaching for a little over a month, but has already begun to make an impact on students. Students emphasize that her methodical approach can be tedious at times, as Hahn often instructs students to repeat challenging exercises several times in a row.

“Ms. Hahn is very strict about the time we spend in class, and utilizes every single minute,” junior Arshitha Joga said. “She loves to get right into the nitty gritty of the music, and sometimes students feel overwhelmed with the intense work on our repertoire,” junior Morgan Dreiling added.

However, students agree that Hahn’s teaching style, although repetitive, helps them achieve a standard of excellence. She pushes students through her detail-oriented mindset and makes an effort to perfect each note.

“I would say her teaching style is fast paced but engaging, which makes the rehearsals more fun,” junior Alyson Hripko said. “When she sightreads pieces alongside us, we as an orchestra can see that even our teachers can struggle with new material,” Dreiling added.

Hahn has brought a new perspective to the orchestra program and is likely to help it grow while improving her approach to teaching in the coming years.

“Since this is her first year teaching, I knew that her teaching style would take some getting used to,” Joga said. “After the first run-through of a piece,” Dreiling added, “we as an orchestra understood that both the students and the conductor could grow exponentially with each other.”