James Edwards retires after 16 years as orchestra director

Last year marked the end of an era. When previous orchestra director James Edwards announced he was retiring, he left his position open. Now that school has started, the orchestra students have met James Potter, the new orchestra director. The students say they believe Potter will have big shoes to fill.

“I hope the new director [Mr. Potter] is as an amazing teacher as Mr. Edwards and inspires us to play more music,” sophomore Tiffany Chung said.

Edwards worked at Westlake for 16 years, putting on productions such as The Nutcracker Spectacular and the annual Chile con Carnivale.The students said they felt very surprised when Edwards announced his retirement. Edwards said he felt it was just his time to go.

“I think for everybody it’s different but for me, there comes a time when you feel like you have accomplished what you wanted at a particular job and it’s time to move on to a different adventure,” Edwards said.

Every December, orchestra students played under Edwards’ direction in the popular Nutcracker.

“I would have to say the Nutcracker is my favorite, because over the years it’s just turned into such a big production with pyrotechnics, rock music, ballet dancers and the orchestra in the pit,” Edwards said. “It’s a lot of fun to do. There was one particular dress rehearsal where I thought I would sit on the ledge to watch the show and took a bad fall off the back. I thought I was going to do damage. I came out OK, but it was one of the craziest things that had ever happened to me.”

The orchestra is welcoming Potter with open arms. The current students in the orchestra, and Edwards, hope they can make a smooth transition and keep alive the many traditions the orchestra has made over the years.

“I would like to see a continuation of our tradition of excellence,” Edwards said. “I’m just so proud of what the orchestra has accomplished over the last 16 years, and where it has come from. I just hope the new director wants to take it to newer and greater heights and continue the traditions.”

Edwards’ retirement does come with its fair share of tears and Edwards said he will miss the kids, past and present, that he’s gotten to work with and stand by.

“I’m going to miss the kids and the time I got to spend with students in the classroom, because that’s the best part of this job and that’s why somebody like me does what he does,” Edwards said. “I think the Carnegie hall trip was really cool. Stepping out on stage with two orchestras really was such a special once in a lifetime wonderful moment for me that I’ll always remember.”

Edwards wants to leave his students with high hopes and for them to know that they’ve taught him as much as he has taught them. He urges them to continue with their passion for music.
“I hope they carry away a love of music and that they treasure the time we’ve spent together here and that they will really cherish the music that we’ve made,” Edwards said. “I really do believe that we’ve made some really great music and that’s a life-long treasure, a lot of people don’t get to have. My students, they’ve kept me young, they’ve kept me alive and energetic and I’m going to miss that a lot. The youth that I get to work with every day and the youth that’s brought to me.”