Fifth grade band teacher serves as pit director

Musical, teaching skills make Emilie Bertram well suited for the job


Molly Schochet

Junior Renee McSherry poses during rehearsal for the spring musical March 12. The cast was practicing the dance for the song “Delivery.”

Gabriel Kaplan

Emilie Bertram, Park’s new pit orchestra director, said she looks forward to working with a variety of music genres as she helps organize plays in the future.

“I’m excited to experience musicals that I otherwise wouldn’t have listened to or gone to watch,” Bertram said. “When you teach band, most of the time, it’s just very band music. This gives me more real-world music that you’d hear on the radio or on a musical Pandora or Spotify playlist.”

According to play director Jody Schifsky, Bertram currently teaches 5th grade band in the district and was selected for this role at the suggestion of another teacher.

“She was actually highly recommended by Mr. Schmitz, who is the band director here at the high school, and he had worked with her,” Schifsky said. “He thought she would be great for this position, so we reached out to her and were lucky to nab her.”

Bertram said her first task as pit director will be directing the orchestra music and coordinating with the actors for “Working,” the spring musical.

“The job requires that I have full knowledge of the music,” Bertram said. “Soon we’ll be working with the singers on coordinating the singing and putting it with the pit. That’s when my role is most vital in terms of the production. I am kind of the middleman between the actors on stage and the singers, and the actual background musicians.”

Junior Jacob Nelson, who currently plays piano in the orchestra, said he enjoys working with Bertram.

“She’s fun to work with. She understands what I need and has been trying to get the other instruments of the ensemble into the musical since we were missing like half of them for a while” Nelson said.

According to Schifsky, Bertram’s varied experience in education and music contribute to her effectiveness as the pit director. 

“Sometimes musicians are great musicians, but they’re not necessarily the best at bringing out the best in others — but (Bertram) has both,” Schifsky said. “She has a background of musical skills, but she can also bring students and community volunteers to a level of excellence that will help support the program.”

Nelson said Bertram’s success is especially impressive given she is new to the role and the ongoing pandemic.

“This is her first time doing pit direction, she’s just been an elementary school teacher and I think she’s pretty new to teaching too,” Nelson said. “For it being her first year, and for it being this year in the middle of a pandemic where everything is scuffed, she’s been doing a really good job of making sure I’m comfortable and that it’s not absolutely a nightmare.”