Orchestra teacher brings Broadway experience to classroom
Whitefish Pilot | May 31, 2022 3:00 PM
As both a performer and teacher at heart, Summer Boggess has found a new home with the Whitefish School District Orchestra Program.
Boggess, who officially took over as the Whitefish orchestra director in October, brings a wide range of experience from teaching in schools in New York and programs in India and Afghanistan to performing routinely on Broadway. Prior to moving to the Flathead Valley, she spent 15 years based out of New York City and was immersed in the intense music scene there.
Now she is ectatic to set roots here and work with a music program that was already flourishing long before she took over.
She says something unique about the Whitefish Orchestra is that the program, originally created by Jenanne Solberg 20 years ago, is that she gets to start teaching kids in the fifth grade. The program officially starts in sixth grade and leaves her with an opportunity to potentially guide students musically all the way through high school.
“I can see these kids potentially from fifth all the way to 12th grade; it is such a luxury as a teacher,” Boggess said. “Jenanne had set that all up, and the facilities and the instruments are already here. It’s a program that’s already up and running and quite good.”
Boggess added that she sees kids in the high school orchestra that have shared a stand since sixth grade and their connection is inspiring.
“The bond that they have is so special,” she said. “They’ve been playing together for so long. You see as a teacher what you can do with that and it’s just sort of endless.”
BOGGESS GREW up in Denver before attending the University of Colorado for her undergraduate degree and Cincinnatti Conservatory for her master’s. Directly after finishing her master’s degree she went on the road with a traveling Broadway show for about eight months.
Following that experience, she moved to New York City and immersed herself in the culture of music and performing arts.
“I tried to break into the whole New York scene, which is intense,” Boggess recalls. “But, there’s so much incredible music there.”
For 15 years she performed on Broadway in nine shows that she originated in and countless others where she subbed. She says she loved being surrounded by such amazing musicians every night and the experience was one she remembers fondly. Every musician in the pit is so talented, according to Boggess, and each night is a challenge to perform at an insanely high level.
“It’s such a community of artists and working together with the same kind of people – it's really fun,” she said. “And just hearing that much audience applause, you’re part of something that’s making people really happy.”
As she performed on Broadway, she also taught for 13 years at a school in New York. She obtained her long-term teaching training at the Manhattan School for Strings where she learned and perfected a variety of techniques.
Boggess has performed alongside one of her sisters, who is a singer and performer on Broadway, and also met her husband, Brian Hertz, who is a pianist that was also performing Broadway shows at the time.
Boggess comes from a family that loves music, as her parents encouraged their three daughters to take as many music classes as possible. All three went into music professionally as Boggess’ youngest sister is a pianist and runs a music school in Georgia while her middle sister is a professional singer.
“It’s a nice bond that we share,” Boggess says.
THE PANDEMIC altered the performing arts scene in New York and provided an opportunity for Boggess and her husband to try out living full time in Montana — a place they had been visiting for years and had bought a house locally in 2018.
She had lived in the valley full-time for about a year before taking the job in Whitefish. She joined the board of directors for North Valley Music School upon moving here and also performed with the Alpine Theatre Project.
Boggess has always equally loved teaching and performing. Even working full-time in Whitefish now, she finds ways to take gigs across the country as well as performing with the school orchestras.
For Boggess, teaching is about the unique approach for each student.
“I just love teaching, I love finding the tools that make something click for a student,” she says.
She says her job as a teacher is never the same and always changing, which she loves. Additionally, as a strings player, Boggess says there are so many varieties of music. Strings have a place in rap, pop, classical, rock, Broadway and more — and thus can take her students anywhere they want to go with music.
“People use strings for everything... so I really love exposing my students to that kind of stuff,” she says.
Since joining the Whitefish Orchestra program, she also collaborates with the music directors across the district, as well as assistance from Solberg, and that has been helpful to have many working relationships.
“Everyone’s strong, everyone loves teaching, everyone is kind of at the top of their game as a teacher,” she said. “So joining that, there’s so much support.”
Whitefish has built strong music programs over the years and using her experience, along with collaborating across the district music department, Boggess hopes to keep the Whitefish Orchestra thriving for years to come.