Understanding the life of WEGO’s inspiring orchestra teacher


Photo by WEGO Orchestra

Teacher Alexandra Wojciechowski (far left) posing for a group photo with the 2012 WCCHS orchestra.

By Asa Kuharich, Reporter

WEGO has a fascinating teacher at the helm of its various orchestras. Her history has a layer of mystique that will not be found in another teacher, but that does not stop her from being a fun and engaging teacher to be around – to the point of forming something of a family among her students. Of course, Alexandra Wojciechowski is the teacher in question, and her impression on orchestra students at WEGO is unmistakable.

This family photo depicts Woj, her husband Lee, and daughter Natasha. (Photo by Alexandra Wojciechowski)

When I sat down in the practice room with Wojciechowski in March, to talk about her background and education, I learned that Mrs. Woj (as she is referred to by her students) attended Elmhurst University, which was further evident by the navy-blue logoed hoodie she was wearing.

“I had really great professors that I still keep in touch with. My mentors in college continue to be my mentors 10 years later, not to mention I also met my husband at college on the first day of school,” she said, tuning her out-of-tune violin.

Since then, she has spent 10 years teaching at WEGO, she explained with at least one signature pencil in her hair. 

Woj lives with her husband, Lee, her 5-month daughter, Natasha, and two dogs, Henry and Allen. 

Her daughter “likes to pet Henry a lot, and he’s her buddy… wherever she is, Allen is there with her and whenever we’re on a walk, he needs to be guarding the stroller.” 

Woj described Henry as a teddy bear and the Great Dane, Allen, as a protector. 

Although music and orchestra are clearly areas of passion for this teacher, her outside interests are rather surprising. 

“I love paddleboarding, and I like to do that as much as possible. I like being outside, going hiking, riding bikes, but I also like reading. I’m always listening to podcasts, because there’s too much noise if I’m always listening to music…I can listen to music on the way to work, but I can’t listen to music after work,” said Woj.

Allen watching as Woj enjoys an afternoon of paddleboarding. (Photo by Alexandra Wojciechowski)

Of course, music plays a central role in her life, and she described her experience as a performer across various platforms of music. The cello is her primary instrument (as well as this reporter’s). According to Woj, choosing cello was largely due to the sound – her inspiration drawn from Yo-Yo Ma – and because the violin was too small, leaving the viola feeling clunky. She briefly tried to play the flute without being in a band, and did not want to be in marching band. 

Woj prefers playing over conducting, because while the conductor is important, conducting is useless to a performer if the performer cannot demonstrate and play. 

She also described that she learns a lot from the patience and kindness from some of her students, and aspires to be more like them, going as far as to sometimes alter the way she teaches when observing them. 

Woj is currently in her tenth year of teaching at WEGO.

“As a teacher, I admire Mrs. Woj’s desire to truly and deeply connect with her students.  She wants to know her students genuinely so she can help them grow not only as musicians but as human beings.  Her knowledge of her subject matter and pedagogy is top notch.  I hope her students know how lucky they are to have her!” said Brandon Fantozzi, choir teacher and fellow colleague. 

Fantozzi’s sentiments are shared by Woj’s students, who feel Woj offers a supportive classroom environment.

Giovanie Sebastian, senior, describes having Woj as a teacher in orchestra and AP music theory as “an absolute joy, she is probably one of the best teachers I have ever had. I would describe her as fun, patient and friendly.” 

Austin Sanchez, sophomore, had similar thoughts when he said, “Having Woj as a music teacher is good for me both music wise and having a friendship with Woj. She helps with parts in music I may not understand and she genuinely cares for us in her own way.”

Her dedication to music, her students, and her coworkers is evident in all she does.

“As a colleague, Ms. Woj is loyal and supportive.  She wants what’s best for you personally and for your own students.  She goes out of her way to have fun, to be authentic and to help make the Music Office a space where we all want to hang out together,” said Fantozzi.

It is hardly surprising, then, that when asked about her favorite thing about teaching at West Chicago Community High School, she said, “You guys, but also everything we get to do. My favorite class is probably technique class because not only do we get to play orchestra literature, but in technique class, we get to focus on being good at our instrument purely for each individual.”

Woj following her graduation ceremony at Elmhurst University. (Photo by Alexandra Wojciechowski)

Lately, orchestras around the world have watched come-up of the kind of music that operates around the string instruments. When asked how she felt about this trend, Woj mentioned that not all composers are great people, specifically recognizing Beethoven as ‘mean’ despite his talent.

Woj also mentioned that asking if someone has a favorite composer is tantamount to asking someone if they have a favorite person. “Do you have a favorite person?” she asked me. “You should say your mom.”

Yet she stated that Tchaikovsky is one of her favorite composers, mentioning that he has a ‘heartbreaking’ story and it is reflected in his music. In citing Hans Zimmer as one of her favorite film composers, Woj also recognizes that there are flaws in the way music was and still is created.

Woj said, “I can’t think of a composer that I don’t like. I can definitely say there are composers that I don’t appreciate their style of writing. You like them all for different reasons.” 

Alexandra Wojciechowski is an all-around enthusiastic teacher to be around. Woj has undoubtedly had a profound impact on WEGO that has created a positive environment for students to express themselves and become part of a family. Those who have had her as an orchestra mentor can agree.

 “I’ve had her for three years through string and symphony [orchestra] and overall, she’s been my favorite teacher and my favorite class,” said Charlene Bahnfleth, senior.