Fort Casey retreat boosts music students’ morale

Leader News Staff
Posted 11/10/21



Port Townsend High School Orchestra and Band members recently participated in a musical workshop fall retreat at Fort Casey, working with coaches from around the …

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Fort Casey retreat boosts music students’ morale




Port Townsend High School Orchestra and Band members recently participated in a musical workshop fall retreat at Fort Casey, working with coaches from around the area.

Originally, the high school music students had planned a trip to Spokane as part of a music tour. However, due to rising COVID cases in Eastern Washington, the trip was postponed. 

Instead, the group created an event which proved not only a fun bonding opportunity for students, but provided great musical value. 

A total of 73 students traveled by ferry from Port Townsend to Fort Casey to kick off the autumn season with instruments, sleeping bags, and supplies for the two-night retreat in tow. Students stayed in individual dorm rooms at the fort and most activities were held outside and socially distanced for safety measures. 

All students were rapid tested for COVID before leaving for the trip.

“Although we were disappointed that the trip was postponed, I think this ended up being a great alternative event for the students,” said music director Daniel Ferland. 

“They got to spend two days working together on their music in various groups and getting great feedback from their instructors,” Ferland added.

Musical coaches included local teachers Kristin Smith, Pat Yearian, Fred Nussbaum, and Mike McLeron. Tyrone Betty, a violin and viola teacher from Port Angeles who performs with the Port Angeles Symphony, was also an instructor.

“The entire experience was a blast for both the students and ourselves as instructors,” Ferland recalled.

“Looking around at all the young adults we led on the retreat, even the youngest members of the troupe were eager to get together, focus, and work on making good music. So proud and honored to see and assist some great musicians in the making.”

In addition to working on musical selections, the students also participated in team-building skills and activities to build camaraderie and community. 

After almost a year and a half of the pandemic, there haven’t been many opportunities for the band and orchestra students to work together as a group.

Orchestra member Luna Moloitis shared her takeaway.

“It was honestly exhilarating,” she said.

“After being on lockdown for over a year, it was one of the most exciting learning experiences I’ve ever been a part of. We were given a kind of creative freedom one wouldn’t normally expect on a school field trip. Musically and emotionally, I feel this trip helped a lot of kids to get out of their shell and express themselves in ways they never thought possible,” she added.

“The atmosphere of Fort Casey was just absolutely astounding. The camp was 100 percent judge free, and hopefully welcoming to the younger students who may have been nervous to play in such an advanced music group like ours. This trip felt rewarding as we were trusted and respected like adults, but able to act like the children we are and were never able to be during COVID amid the lockdowns. It was definitely a trip to remember.”

The event was organized and paid for in part by the Port Townsend Music Boosters. 

The organization has been vital to supporting school music programs during the pandemic. During lockdown, music classes weren’t possible, and the future of the orchestra and band program looked bleak. Music Boosters supported students by providing Zoom lessons; the majority free of charge. 

“The absolute joy of seeing our kids engage with their peers and restart their musical lives is delightful and vital,” said Michelle Poore, Booster president. “This is our goal.”