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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

A search for musical excellence overcomes age differences

Isabelle Gecils
Music teachers Michael Boitz and Jason Shiuan pose together in Vienna after resolving a stressful safety dilemma.

On most Blue Days, music teachers Michael Boitz and Jason Shiuan make time to collaborate and discuss future projects together. More than a decade ago, they shared similar conversations on the same campus, but as teacher and student leader instead of professional colleagues. 

Shiuan, a Class of ‘11 alumnus, has had the opportunity to learn from Boitz as a mentor and colleague, which he said has allowed the pair to foster a strong friendship

“I started teaching here and then you know, obviously naturally just the amount of time we spend [has brought us closer together],” Shiuan said. 

Boitz recalls how when he recently had surgery at the back of his throat in late 2023, inhibiting his ability to fully express his thoughts and instructions. Though there was no way Shiuan could have understood his words, the duo was still able to understand each other. After listening to just a few of Boitz’s well-intentioned grunts, Shiuan was able to decode Boitz’s meaning successfully and give detailed instructions to his students.

“I can read his brain sometimes from his teacher [perspective],” Shiuan said. “And he can as mine because we have spent so much time together.”

One of Boitz’s favorite moments from their friendship took place at the orchestra’s trip to Vienna, Austria, in 2022. Surrounded by waves of potential dangers ranging from COVID-19 to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two teachers were filled with anxiety for the 400 students in their care. When they finally arrived safely and had the technicalities of the trip solidified, the two teachers were overcome with relief.

Even on trips that aren’t bedazzled with such hardships, Shiuan and Boitz still enjoy each other’s company through their shared love of food.

“Whenever we travel somewhere, it is kind of a priority,” Boitz said. “We’d be much wealthier if we didn’t spend so much money on food.” 

Shiuan remembers a time in Strauss, Austria, when the teachers and their students were at a market full of food. For a full half-hour, the two teachers sat under a stand offering any students passing by to eat a sausage, which he deemed delicious.

Outside of school premises, Shiuan often visits Boitz’s house. According to Boitz, Shiuan acts like an uncle to Boitz’s daughter and two twins. Still, it’s their shared love for music that has brought them together.

“We bond over the pursuit of musical excellence,” Shiuan said. “And we hold each other to a high standard. and I think because of that, it pushes us closer and closer because we aim for the same things.”

As Boitz says the musical world is relatively small, they often hear about each other and each other’s reputations at large musical gatherings.

“We talk about it with our students and we talk about it with all of our colleagues and our friends,” Shiuan said. “We really believe music has brought a lot of us together that we probably wouldn’t have met without it.”

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