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Western Pennsylvania has a strong tradition of neighborhood, personal and community commitment. Our pride in pulling together goes far beyond supporting our deep-rooted sports teams. 90.5 WESA Celebrates People Making a Difference honors the individuals that are making a difference in people's lives on the ground level and reminding us we are all truly a part of each other's lives.This special series, supported by UPMC, will highlight, honor and celebrate Western Pennsylvanians who are unsung heroes daring to make a difference to others in our community.00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770c8000000000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770ca000000000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770cc000090.5 WESA PA listening area counties:Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Westmoreland, Butler, Armstrong, Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, Fayette, Indiana00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f770cd0000This project is made possible by a generous contribution from UPMC.

‘Orchestra Mom’ Continues To Foster Young Musicians, Even After Son’s Graduation

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Rebekah Zook
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90.5 WESA

Janet Vukotich began her involvement with the South Hills Junior Orchestra simply as an “orchestra mom.”

When her son first picked up the cello in third grade, Vukotich said he “fell in love.” Her son’s love of stringed instruments brought his mother more than a decade of volunteer positions and responsibilities, even long after her son had graduated from high school and moved on from the orchestra.

“The organization was really good for my son,” Vukotich said. “It gave him a place where he could just be himself and nobody cared. This was a place where people accepted him for just the way he was.”

Today she’s the managing director and keeper of the orchestra’s music library.

Vukotich said she aims to foster an environment in which young musicians can flourish. She attends every rehearsal, keeps tabs on music and attendance, as well as maintain the group’s finances.

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Credit Rebekah Zook / 90.5 FM WESA
A portion of the South Hills Junior Orchestra music library sits on the floor of Janet Vukotich's home.

Vukotich also works to promote community engagement, letting students show off their skills outside of traditional concerts. The orchestra has performed for nursing homes and donated money to “Little Kids Rock,” a program that finances instruments for students who may not have access to them otherwise.

The South Hills Junior Orchestra is comprised of students from more than 30 school districts, of varying age and skill level. Vukotich said the group setting is great for students to work on their musical skills collectively.  

“Kids in high school will help the younger kids,” she said. “There’s a really good synergy between the students themselves.”

She finds the most rewarding part is seeing the students grow as musicians. The orchestra’s inclusiveness, accepting any young musician willing to give up their Saturday morning to practice, is something she’s enjoyed being a part of – even if some of those students don’t continue with their instruments.  

“We have kids who go on to be music teachers,” she said. “We have kids who go on to be performance majors, we have kids who play music as a hobby and we have kids who never play another note.”