50 Years of Alumni: Mark Gitch
St. Olaf College (BA MusEd ’88; University of St. Thomas, MA MusEd ’02)
What years were you in GTCYS?
1983-1984 in Symphony, before graduating in 1984. I prepared to audition when I was in sixth grade but chickened out (when the door to the audition room opened, I turned to my mom and said, “I changed my mind, let’s go home!”). Fast forward to 1983 – many of my friends at Mounds View HS and from the All-State Orchestra were already in GTCYS and they convinced me I should join them. We travelled to Great Britain that summer – I didn’t know about the trip when I auditioned, so that was a nice surprise!
What skills or lessons did you learn in GTCYS that you still use today?
I had to make time to practice to an extent I had not before, which set me up well for a music major and for all of the playing I’ve done since. The sense of community we felt helped me know what a healthy, effective ensemble might look and feel like. Dr. Jones’s combination of intensity, disarming kindness, and interest in us as people continues to influence my work as a teacher and conductor. I also deepened my understanding of how to listen.
Why do you think GTCYS is important for students now?
In both my own life and in the lives of so many students I have known, music touches corners of the soul and mind that other subjects do not. Orchestral music, which requires both personal commitment and a commitment to and across a large community, feeds and illuminates those corners in ways that other subjects and other music do not. That’s not to say that orchestral music is inherently “better” than other subjects or types of music. It is a unique and meaningful way of knowing and understanding both the world and ourselves.
How does music still play a part in your life?
In addition to leading the orchestras at Wayzata High School and conducting GTCYS Concert Orchestra, I love playing my violin, listening to music across many genres, and attending concerts.
What is your favorite composer or piece of music?
“Favorites” wax and wane depending on life’s circumstances and moods. That said, Dvorak’s 9th Symphony holds a special place in my heart as the first classical piece I remember having a “favorite” type relationship with. Malcolm Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances is a favorite from my year in GTCYS Symphony. I particularly recall Dr. Jones trying to encourage the bassoonist to play drunkenly while trying to avoid actually encouraging drunkenness!
What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I happened to marry the amazing Terra Widdifield just as the pandemic hit Minnesota. Our honeymoon “trip” consisted of takeout food and movies associated with various countries we would have liked to visit had travel have been permitted and our budget unlimited.
What do you hope to see from GTCYS in the next 50 years?
I hope that a population increasingly diverse in background, but of similarly curious and engaged hearts and minds, will continue to come into community with the goal of making great music together. If school programs continue the current trend of reducing/delaying opportunities for students and families who value music, I hope that GTCYS can step in to fill the void. I’ve long admired GTCYS “big tent” philosophy and hope that it will continue.