Finish Lines: Robert Vogel

Mt. Lebanon High School retiring orchestra and music teacher Robert Vogel

How has the orchestra changed in the years you have been there? When I started at the high school, the schedule included one period of high school orchestra, two periods of junior high orchestra and a half-day of elementary strings. The program grew until the position became full time. Fabulous staff members were added to the elementary and middle levels, making for a tremendous feeder program.

What is the most challenging part of your job? Efficiently handling and balancing the non-teaching tasks has been essential in order to do what I love most, which is teaching and being in rehearsals with the wonderful students of Mt. Lebanon’s orchestras. 

There are recommendations to write, forms to process, instruments to maintain and music that must be ordered. Planning meaningful student trips—hotels, buses, equipment transportation, meals, sightseeing, cultural opportunities, performances and student safety—can be very challenging.

Who is your favorite composer and why? I love the music of J. S. Bach because of the variety, rhythmic energy and inventiveness in his music. I have performed some great Bach works with the high school string orchestra over the years, but mostly program music from the Romantic Era and the 20th Century because these works can be especially well-suited for the high school orchestras.

Why do you think music is important for young people? It is important for young people to appreciate art and beauty. Students become sensitive individuals and learn discipline, creativity and problem-solving in music ensembles. They function as a team, develop solid work ethics and leadership skills and appreciate the value and satisfaction of striving toward long-term goals, rather than seeking instant gratification.

What is your favorite orchestra memory? If I must identify specific memories, it would need to be the five performances the orchestra had in New York City at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. The orchestras were praised
by adjudicators and cheered by audience members. Trips are so important for building camaraderie and aiding ensembles in raising
their performance standards.

Photo by Martha Rial