Retired Teacher Continues to Inspire

August 21, 2016 | Susan Mizushima

When Paula Oltman retired, she had a dream of sharing her love for violin with the students of Hermiston Junior Academy in northeast Oregon. She wanted to teach violin and develop the students' skills so they could play for church. Oltman brought enjoyable music to our school.

The first year nearly all of the students in our school took the violin classes. Oltman bought the instruments in various sizes and rented them out to the students for a very affordable fee. Her dream was that the students could change sizes of instruments as they grew and finish school owning their own instrument to take with them as they entered academy orchestra.

Violin classes started from kindergarten. I studied violin with my students. As we began, proper form and how to hold the bow were carefully taught. Then we began bow practice with “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It was difficult to coordinate the bow, fingers and music and watch the leader. But with weeks of practice, it began to come together.

An after-school advanced class, open to all ages, was started by October. Our first performance was the Christmas program. It was amazing to see our 40 students standing in rows playing together.

After each performance, new music was introduced requiring new skills to learn, with greater difficulty. Soon we were playing for our church in Hermiston. Some students were hungry to learn more, and their parents supported their desire with private lessons. The advanced group continued through the summer months. When Upper Columbia Academy brought their orchestra from Spangle, Wash., to play for our school, students watched with great interest, marveling at their form and attentiveness to the conductor.

Now as we complete our second year of violin, I am amazed at what Oltman has accomplished. Many students do have the love for violin and work hard at this difficult instrument. While most of our pieces have been music that can be played for church, this quarter we have been working on fiddle tunes. Students love the fast-moving music.

On Monday mornings at our school, it’s fun to pause with my class in the hallways and listen as other classes play. I’m grateful to Paula Oltman for giving us this opportunity to learn violin and to enjoy music. I appreciate Hermiston Church and the school board for supporting this program.