A letter to families from Mr. Kolk…

Hello Garfield Orchestra Parents and Families!

Welcome to one of the strangest years of all of our lives. I am writing to update you all on what our Orchestra classes have been up to, where we hope to go, and to introduce (or re-introduce) everyone to our booster organization, the Friends of Garfield Orchestras.

So how do we make music in a remote learning environment? Preparing for this year has forced me, along with my colleagues Blake Saunders (choir/drumline) and Jared Sessink (band/jazz), to reflect deeply on the fundamentals of our teaching philosophies. I’ve come to the following place: Orchestra, at its core, teaches us (a) sustained growth over time – refining skills on our instruments day after day until our consistent efforts have brought us to new and previously unimagined places, and (b) the power and practice of collaboration – by working together we can create something that is bigger than any one of us by ourselves.

With this philosophy in mind, our year has started to take shape. Focusing on sustained growth over time and collaboration in a distance learning environment have required the use of new tools, and we have spent the first three weeks of our school year familiarizing ourselves with these new tools. Here is where we are at and where we are going:

Classes are starting with warm-ups, designed to model individual practice. We have also begun work on our first pieces of music for the whole class, and the coming days will involve the whole class working through the technical challenges and musical opportunities that each piece provides. Outside of class, we are utilizing a program called Upbeat Music to allow for video-conference-style sectional rehearsals! Students are meeting in small groups, recording a short excerpt in real time, and then hearing the combined recordings of everyone in the group – almost like being together in the same room practicing a section of the music. These small groups allow for a great deal of student leadership opportunities, as well as a modicum of social interaction (something we are all missing dearly these days!).

We are also meeting as an entire music department with students in the Band, Choir, and Drumline classes to learn about Music Production. We are using a program called Audacity to explore multi-track recording, editing, and the creation of high quality audio tracks. Our hope is that students will take this in unique and creative directions as they become more and more familiar with the tools they have access to!

One of our overarching goals is to put together full ensemble recordings. These recordings will come out of our sectional work as well as our work in music production. While everything this year has felt like a moving target, I believe we will be able to see and hear the results of this work by Thanksgiving. Once our recordings are compiled, we will use them as the headlining elements of a Concert Production that will also feature individual and small group student work. I hope to establish a firm date for this event within the next few weeks, and look forward to inviting all of you to celebrate the artistry of our students.

Finally, I would like to introduce all parents, new and old, to the organization that is making all of this possible: the Friends of Garfield Orchestra, or FOGO! This non-profit, run by parents of Garfield Orchestra Students, has served in the past to provide our program with all of the instruments, coaching, sheet music, and supplies that our students have needed to make beautiful music. This year is no different! Already FOGO has provided our students with hundreds of dollars of music, as well as subscriptions to Upbeat Music (at a rate of $15 per student).

Typically, we have begun our year by requesting an “Activity Fee” of $100 to make  all of this possible. We are forgoing that practice this year, but still encourage you to consider making a donation towards our program. This can easily be done through our website, or by sending a check to

Friends of Garfield Orchestra (FOGO)
PO Box 22749
Seattle, WA 98122-0749

Your support will allow us to continue providing access to the highest quality programs and materials as we navigate through this year.

All families, especially parents who are new to our program, please update your contact information with FOGO so that we can stay in touch with our activities by following this link: https://garfieldorchestra.org/please-update-your-contact-information-with-fogo/

Additionally, I would like to personally encourage you to become involved with FOGO! Please We hold monthly meetings that are open to all parents, and still have several official board positions that we are looking to fill. We rely on parent volunteers to assist in running and organizing programs during traditional school years, and this year will be especially relying on parental support and ingenuity in crafting meaningful experiences for our whole community. Our first e-meeting will be taking place on Tuesday, October 20th, at 7:00pm, and successive meetings will be held on the first Tuesday of the month (with the exception of November, as that coincides with a certain very important national event – VOTE!). Update your contact information using the link above and we will send a meeting link to your inbox. Please consider becoming involved and supporting your student’s growth as a musician!

More to come as the year continues to evolve in more weird and wonderful ways. Wishing you all continued health and safety – and missing you all ever so dearly.

Best,

Bryan Kolk

Orchestra Director, Garfield High School

Please Update Your Contact Information with FOGO

FOGO communications are used to keep students and their families informed about upcoming events and information from Mr. Kolk. If you would like to receive FOGO communications, please provide the following information to communications@garfieldorchestra.org:

– Student name (First and Last)
– Student email address (Note: FOGO messages cannot be received at students’ @seattleschools.org address)
– Student phone number
– Student grade (9-12)
– Orchestra (A [Symphony] B [Concert], or C [Freshman])
– Primary instrument (and secondary, if applicable)
– Parent(s)/Guardian(s) names
– Parent(s)/Guardian(s) email address(es)
– Parent(s)/Guardian(s) phone number(s)
– Mailing address(es) for student and parent(s)/guardian(s)

If you are new to Garfield Orchestra this year or any of your contact information (including grade and orchestra) has changed, please send us an email with the updates at: communications@garfieldorchestra.org so we can be sure to stay connected.

Thank you!
FOGO Communications

Virtual Learning in Music Info Session/Q&A – August 20th

Greetings from the Garfield Music Department, We hope that you have all had a safe and healthy summer break, and that you are finding meaningful and fulfilling ways to maneuver the many changes that we have all been experiencing in the past months. 

As we look forward to a new school year, feelings of uncertainty are pervasive. We want to help assuage these concerns and to share with all of you our plans for what our music classes will look and feel like as we return this Fall for remote learning. Our music department has been meeting weekly throughout summer to craft plans for the coming year. Our goals are to provide a primary focus on the community and musical growth that are the foundations of our ensemble classes, and also to take advantage of the distance learning setting to explore musical topics that are culturally relevant and engaging – topics like Music Production/Recording Technology, Music Therapy, Race and American Music, and Musical Career Pathways. We have spoken with several student representatives over the summer to guide our planning and are excited to share what we have in store for you! 

We would like to present our current plans with students and families before the school year starts. To accommodate the size of the meeting groups and allow opportunities for ample Q&A, we have created two meeting dates organized by ensemble type. Both sessions will contain the same presentation from all three teachers, so feel free to attend either based on your availability; again, the suggested attendance is an effort to manage attendee size and accommodate the question answer session at the conclusion of each meeting. These meetings will also be recorded and made available for future viewing.

Please refer to the Zoom link in the email that was sent to families on August 7th.

Audition Results

Hello Everyone,

Thank you all for your hard and focused work regarding auditions during this atypical year! The results that follow are listed in alphabetical order for all of our auditioned seats: the entire roster of Symphony Orchestra as well as the wind section of Concert Orchestra. New members of Symphony Orchestra are identified in italics.

It is important to note several things: first, these results are not 100% final and are subject to change for reasons related to communication problems. What is posted here today are the results of every audition that I have listened to. Each of you that submitted an audition recording will receive a response email from me within the coming day (by Wednesday, June 10). If you do not receive a response from me, then I did not hear your audition and we will address the situation so that your audition is given full consideration. We are all experiencing extenuating circumstances, and the unusual nature of this audition process requires that accommodations be made. Additionally, several of you have schedule or instrument specific concerns that need to be addressed in person. I will be reaching out to each of you who have personal considerations that I am aware of, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to me in order to bring up additional information that concerns you.

Second, Concert Orchestra Winds are going to be scheduled differently this year so that players will participate in both Concert Orchestra as well as Symphony Band. This change has been made to provide a more well-rounded education for everyone, allowing both wind- and string-specific class periods and coachings far more often than our schedule has allowed in the past. This will mean your schedule may be listed as either “Concert Orchestra” or “Symphony Band”; we can accommodate either should you prefer that your transcript reflect one versus the other.

Third, all of this is subject to change based on the decisions being made at the district level regarding classes in the coming year. Some questions that are being actively pursued right now include: will learning continue remotely? Will in-person class size be limited? Do wind instruments pose an increased health risk? The answers to all of these questions and more will affect the shape of our Orchestras in the coming year. I am currently leading a team of music teachers in gathering information and recommendations to submit to the district offices in charge of making these decisions, and will make sure that you are all the first to know of any new information. I am fighting for all of you to ensure that we have the safest and most enriching possible situation when we convene for school in the Fall, no matter how we convene.

My very best to all of you,

Bryan Kolk

Concert Winds Roster

Symphony Orchestra Roster

Auditions – 2020

Garfield High School has three Orchestras – Freshman Strings, Concert, and Symphony – and two Bands – Concert and Symphonic. Auditions are required for Symphonic Band and Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Concert Orchestra Wind Section. Auditions are not required for Freshman Strings, Concert Orchestra Strings (grades 10-12), or Concert Band (grades 9-12).

Audition Requirements:

  1. For 2020-2021, auditions will follow the format of the All-Northwest Honors Auditions. Materials are posted to the NAfME Website. For each instrument, the audition consists of the following four tracks with an optional fifth track described below:
    • One or Two Scales (depending on the instrument)
    • Two or Three Excerpts (depending on the instrument, for a total of four tracks)
      • Some wind parts are given an optional secondary instrument excerpt for track 5 (piccolo, contrabassoon, e-flat clarinet, etc.). This is not required for the Garfield Audition.
    • An optional recording of a one-minute solo selection of your choice.
  2. Students need to submit their audition as audio recordings. These recordings are due by Friday, May 15 at 11:59pm. Recordings can be sent anytime between now and May 15th.

More details and instructions on how to submit recordings can be found here.

Mr. Kolk’s Distance Learning Availability

Attached is Mr. Kolk’s availability schedule. He will be available to assist with assignment work for classes based on this schedule. He can be reached through email (brkolk@seattleschools.org) and Schoology messages in real time, and is available for pre-scheduled videoconferences via Microsoft Teams (accessible through Schoology).

Enjoy Video Recordings of March 11th Garfield Orchestra Performances!

Public performances by all three Garfield Orchestras previously scheduled for March 10th were cancelled in response to COVID-19 concerns. On March 11th, the Garfield Concert and Symphony Orchestra performances were recorded during an in-school concert. Unfortunately, due to district-wide closure of schools beginning March 12th, in-school performance of the Freshman Orchestra did not occur.


Video recordings of the March 11th performances are available for viewing at the links below. Please enjoy these wonderful performances during the “pause” in regular orchestra programming!


3/11/20 Concert Orchestra: “Danse Négre” from African Suite, Op.35, No.4, by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor – Coleridge-Taylor was an English composer of African and European decent, and sought to do for traditional African music what Johannes Brahms had done for Hungarian music: to take its traditional melodies and rhythms and put them in an orchestral context. He was unabashedly proud of his paternal Sierra-Leonean heritage and fought racial prejudice in many forms through compositions such as the African Suite as well has his most famous work “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast”. You can view this performance here.


3/11/20 Concert Orchestra: “3. Danse des cygnes” from Swan Lake Suite, Op.20a, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Tchaikovsky took several moments from his ballet and arranged them into a suite that could be performed by an orchestra without dancers. Our performance includes the famous Dance of the Swans as well as the Finale of the ballet. You can view this performance here.


3/11/20 Concert Orchestra: “6. Scene [Act IV No. 29]” from Swan Lake Suite, Op. 20a, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Tchaikovsky took several moments from his ballet and arranged them into a suite that could be performed by an orchestra without dancers. Our performance includes the famous Dance of the Swans as well as the Finale of the ballet. You can view this performance here.


3/11/20 Symphony Orchestra: Symphony No. 2, Movements III and IV, by Jean Sibelius – The renowned Finnish composer Sibelius had recently premiered his tone poem “Finlandia”, a glorious ode to the Finnish people, when he began work on his Second Symphony. Many connections have been drawn between the heraldic nature of both of these works and the political movement for Finnish independence from Russia. Sibelius himself offered little evidence that he meant for his Second Symphony to be a political statement, but described it as “a confession of the soul.” The third movement alternates frenetic passage-work in the strings with a slow and beautiful oboe melody. The fourth movement brings themes from the entire work together for a series of increasingly grand climaxes. These movements are played attaca, without pause.  You can view this performance here.