Orchestra director Helen Chang plays a section of measures of “Don’t Stop Believin” to her second period orchestra class on Sept. 8. She demonstrated how to play the section in third position to the violin section. (Hannah Mathew)
Orchestra director Helen Chang plays a section of measures of “Don’t Stop Believin” to her second period orchestra class on Sept. 8. She demonstrated how to play the section in third position to the violin section.

Hannah Mathew

Stringing into a new school

New orchestra director joins Hebron staff.

September 14, 2022

Stepping onto a stage in the large hall, Helen Chang raises an arm to signal the orchestra to begin playing at the Meyerson. Silence breaks as tens of bows begin moving against strings to create a beautiful melody. For Chang, who has been playing her whole life, being able to conduct an orchestra like this is a dream come true. Especially as she takes on her new role as Hebron’s assistant orchestra director.

Chang grew up in a musical family. She began playing the piano at age 5 and joined an orchestra in sixth grade, where started playing violin.

“I have always found so much joy in music: learning, performing, listening and teaching it,” Chang said. “Music has given me the opportunity to experience travel and life from different perspectives [and] meet many wonderful people. I have enjoyed being able to give back.”

Head orchestra director Matthew Cautivar said Chang has been a welcome addition to the orchestra program, which has expanded from three to four orchestra classes. Most classes have about 30 to 50 students.

“It’s great to have another director to help organize and lead our program,” Cautivar said. “The beginning of the year is one of the busiest times of the year. We have more new members than ever, so just setting up for the year has been much better with Mrs. Chang here.”

Chang has had many experiences playing in an orchestra. She graduated from the Eastman School of Music with a Bachelor of Music in violin performance, and attended Southern Methodist University, receiving two Master of Music degrees in Music Education and Violin Performance.

“One of my favorite memories was about five years after I had graduated from [Eastman],” Chang said. “Some close friends and I went to AIMS in Graz, Austria. We spent a month and a half in Austria performing around Austria and Germany with an Opera Festival.”  

Chang taught at Killian Middle School in 2019, and has been part of the Hebron cluster as a middle school orchestra director and private lesson teacher. 

“I’ve had Mr. Cautivar for three years and I was excited to experience something new,” senior Caitlyn Nguyen said. “She’s a really good teacher, and I hope I can make the most out of this year with her.”

Chang has had a love of performing and playing music from a young age. She said she has had many great experiences playing abroad, and she has always had a sense of dedication to the art.

“Creating music [is rewarding], [and being in person] helped me to just [be] able to share common experiences of creating music,” Chang said. “[It’s a wonderful experience to listen to the music] together in that shared space. I’m very thankful for that.”

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    Ashwin AbySep 14, 2022 at 9:27 PM

    She is an amazing teacher/director, she is very caring, kind and great musician. She gives us a lot of advice what to improve on and is also willing to help us in times of trouble. I enjoy the time having conversation with her after class taking about music and other topic.

    Reply