Good Talk: Mrs. Lavelle

Meet the orchestra teacher who teaches at both NASH and NAI every day, singing in the car as she travels between the schools.

Andrew McLaughlin, Co-Editor-in-Chief

When did you realize you wanted to become a music teacher?

There are a lot of teachers in my family, and my junior year of high school is when I realized that was what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a teacher before I wanted to be a music teacher.

What instruments did you play as a child?

The only instrument I played growing up was the violin, and I started in my school music program in third grade.

How was your experience with music in high school?

We had a full orchestra program, so we had both whole-group orchestra rehearsal and sectional rehearsals throughout the week. A lot of my friends were in orchestra, so it ended up being an important part of my high school career. I also did an outside youth orchestra and have kept in touch with a lot of those friends over the years.

How long have you been teaching at NA, and how have the district’s music programs grown during that time?

This is my 17th year teaching at NA and my 20th year teaching in total. Over the years, the music department has gotten bigger and stronger, but we have also seen a shift toward integrating technology into the classroom. But in an ensemble, sheet music and playing your instrument in person are still really important.

Who started the Strolling Strings program?

Mrs. Christine Loverti started the Strolling Strings program back in the 1980s and built the NA orchestra program for many years. I knew of North Allegheny and its orchestra program before I moved to the Pittsburgh area, so I was excited to become part of it.

Why is Strolling Strings important to you?

Having a group that we can take into the community to perform at so many different types of events was really exciting to me. I also enjoy hearing how the audience responds to such an unconventional way of performing orchestra music.

Who is your favorite classical and modern-day composer?

I love that Holst was an orchestra teacher who composed incredible music for his students, and as for modern-day composers, I think that anything that John Williams writes is brilliant.

What is your favorite genre of music?

I listened to rock and roll growing up, and now I like listening to musical theater when I feel like singing in the car.

Do you have any hobbies?

I like spending time with my family, reading, and hiking in the woods. Right now my daughter is really into fostering guinea pigs, so taking care of animals has become a big part of life in our house.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

I grew up going to Maine in the summer, and it’s my favorite place to be. My mom grew up going there every summer too, so it’s a family tradition that we’ve been able to continue.

What would you do if you won the Powerball?

I would certainly share the winnings with my family, but I would probably take a lot of time thinking about what to do with the money before actually spending it on anything.

Do you have a favorite moment or experience in your years as a teacher?

It is hard to pick just one, but there have been many magical moments on our trips when I see students perform at an incredibly high level, and I love seeing my students enjoy being together.