The Advocate

Newsletter for The Music Education Community of Western PA

Gene Reichenfeld conducting the Wilkinsburg Symphony at Carnegie Music Hall in the 1950s.

The Reichenfeld Family, Four Generations of Music Educators

Mt. Lebanon High School's Orchestra Director, Doug Reichenfeld, has a long career in music education, spanning 37 years. Doug has acted as a music educator since 1994 and notably was a Band Director at Mt. Lebanon School District for 24 years before changing positions to Orchestra Director in 2019. While Doug has an extensive career as a music educator on his own, he comes from a long lineage of music educators dating back to his grandfather and continued by his father and mother. The story does not end with Doug either, with two of his three children working as music educators. However, it all begins with Doug's grandfather, Gene.

Eugene (Gene) Reichenfeld was born in 1911 and immigrated to the United States in 1918, settling in Pittsburgh. He took a liking to the violin at age seven after hearing gypsy street musicians playing around Braddock and eventually saved enough money from delivering groceries to buy himself a violin. For years Gene had played recreationally, gained local notoriety, and at the age of 41 obtained a music education degree from Duquesne and started teaching at Penn Hills School District in the 1950s. Gene was also highly active in teaching private lessons, doing so into his late 90s and seeing as many as 60 students a week. Gene was also influential in the local music community, founding Wilkinsburg Symphony and co-founding the Kennerdell Music and Arts Festival in Venango County. Pictured above is Gene conducting the Wilkinsburg Symphony at Carnegie Music Hall in the 1950s.

In 2003, he received an honorary Doctorate from Duquesne University for his contributions to teaching and music.

Gene's passion for music and teaching was so strong that it influenced his children and led to future generations of Reichenfelds teaching music.

Gene's son, and Doug's father, Arthur (Art) Reichenfeld, became a music educator, obtaining a music education degree from Duquesne and teaching in the Sharon School District.

Doug's mother, Janice (Jan), is also a music educator, receiving a music education degree from Duquesne and teaching in the Greenville school district. Doug's parents were also active in music outside of education. His father held the second chair for violin in the Youngstown Symphony, and his mother performed violin in the Venango County Chamber Group.

It's safe to say Doug grew up in a very musical household, with both mother and father and grandfather, being professional music educators. Doug says that while growing up, he was constantly taken to concerts and performances by his father and grandfather and that family gatherings would often turn into musical performances. Doug's sister, Allison Dunavent, also played the flute and is an elementary school music teacher in Keyser, West Virginia.

The apple didn't fall far from the tree, with all of Doug's children becoming accomplished musicians and two of them moving on to becoming music educators. Doug's oldest son, Evan, attended Middle Tennessee State, originally for bass performance and sound production, but switched to music education his first year. Evan now teaches orchestra, band, and choir at J.E. Harrison Education Center in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District and is an instructor and group coach at the School of Rock. Doug's daughter, Elise, studied music education at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and started her first teaching job this month at Hanover Public School District as the middle school and high school choir teacher. Elise is also directing the middle school musical, a Broadway musical revue called "Broadway Night," and is assistant directing the high school production of "Anastasia." When asked when Elise knew she wanted to become a music educator, she cited a time as the student director of an ensemble where she realized that "when other people learned and grew musically, it was more meaningful than when it happened for herself."

Doug did not intend for his children to follow in his path as music educators, but he did introduce music to them early, teaching them piano when they were around six years old.

Doug said that this age is a critical time for children to learn music, so he wanted to be hands-on in the process.

However, he quickly sent them to private lessons to separate their father from their teacher. Doug emphasized the importance of forging a solid relationship with the private teacher, starting early and trying a few different teachers before settling on one. He had his children have single lessons from various teachers to find a good fit. He said that if you are going to be spending a half-hour to an hour with the instructor every week, it's vital that the teacher and the student work well together.

As an experienced music educator, with music teachers as parents and grandparents, with children who are now becoming music educators, Doug has a lot of advice for someone considering becoming a music educator. For younger people, he advised learning piano as soon as possible. He said that playing the piano is a beneficial tool as it enables one to get their musical ideas out there as soon as they occur.

Doug also said to pay attention to teachers that you learn well from and respect and to pay attention to how they teach and what they are doing that makes them captivating, and think of how you can do that. For college students pursuing music education, Doug advised getting as much hands-on experience as you can along with your coursework. Some suggestions were to start a private studio and volunteer at sectionals/PMEA. For new teachers, Doug insisted on taking time and selecting the best repertoire for your students. He said that it is essential that the piece is accessible for the students and that it is fun to play and inspiring to hear. Doug has found that while the work may be technically challenging to play, students will find themselves liking the music so much that they become motivated to practice it, become invested in it, overcome the technical challenges, and in turn grow musically.

Doug comes from an impressive lineage of music educators, and it's inspiring how he passed on the joy of teaching music to his children. Being raised in a household with a passion for music and witnessing the satisfaction of teaching was not intended to motivate the Reichenfelds to teach music, but it did.

Having someone to talk to about musical ideas and to have that inspiration encouraged professionally and intelligently allows that person to thrive as a musician and music educator. One can have confidence that Doug's children will be great teachers from seeing their father teach for so many years and having other profound teachers in their lives. Also, they will grow and learn as educators with the opportunity to seek guidance from their father who his father, mother, and grandfather guided.

Do you know a musician who would like to perform with a professional orchestra, on stage, at Heinz Hall?

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Student Side-by-Side Program gives musicians in grades 9-12 the opportunity to rehearse with the PSO, leading to performing with them. A participant will receive individual training from a PSO member, participate in rehearsals and sectionals, and attend full orchestra rehearsals with other student musicians. February 15th is the deadline to apply, with rehearsals starting on April 5th.

JMC's New Buyer, Alex Ayers

Alex Ayers, JMC Golden Mile's Lesson Coordinator and Sales Specialist is replacing Larry Conway as JMC's Buyer & Network administrator. As buyer, Alex orders JMC's inventory, including instruments, accessories, and sheet music. Alex has been at JMC for over two years and is privy to the business's operations. As Lesson's Coordinator, Alex learned the wants and needs of music students at JMC firsthand. As Sales Specialist, Alex was trained on all of the details of Johnstonabugh's products and knows what items sell, what customers want, and where to get them. Along with Alex's knowledge of the business, he brings his knowledge of music to the position. Alex has been playing the piano since he was five years old and has a bachelor’s degree in piano and jazz from Duquesne University and holds a graduate degree from Youngstown State University. Alex plays trumpet and ukulele and sings, but the piano is his primary instrument. Alex is featured on various musical recordings, such as Justin Randall's Prisms and Stephen Philip Harvey's Suite Childhood. Alex recently played on and is touring for Steve Philip Harvey Jazz Orchestra's Smash, a superhero-themed album on the Outside in Music/Next Level Imprint. Steve and Alex went to grad school together and are long-time friends. The album features a 17-piece band recorded in August of 2021 and will release later this year.

With Alex moving into the position, JMC customers can be assured that products in the store are being ordered by a musician, for musicians.

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Issued December 2021

Newsletter by Joe Weinzierl and Dennis Emert