Interim choir teacher to leave SHS in January

December 15, 2020 — by Audrey Mah
Photo by Kristina Nakagawa

Nakagawa beams at her students as they pose for a photo during class.

Interim choir teacher Kristina Nakagawa recently announced that she will depart from the school at the start of the spring semester to serve as artistic director for Vivace Youth Chorus of San Jose.

Nakagawa was approved as artistic director in July, but the position was scheduled to begin in January.  She has had over 19 years of music education experience and has taught elementary through college students. This past semester, Nakagawa taught two periods of choir at the school.

“When I heard from a close friend about the substitute position at Saratoga, I thought it would be a wonderful interim position and the timing would work out perfectly,” Nakagawa said. “Sadly, because of the pandemic, [the interim choir teacher position] has lasted longer than I am able to serve.”

Nakagawa came to Saratoga High following the departure of the previous choir director, Andrew Ford, who was arrested in May on a count of alleged sexual assault on a minor between 2004-2006. 

Starting next semester, the choir classes will have a new long-term substitute, Beth Nitzan. Nitzan was a student of Nakagawa’s at San Jose State University for a year.

Junior Terry Parsons, a choir student, said she is sad to see Nakagawa go because she appreciated the energy and enthusiasm that Nakagawa brought to the program. One of Parsons’ favorite memories with Nakagawa was creating performance videos with the rest of the choir class. 

“After so long of being in quarantine, you kind of forget how great it feels to hear everyone sing together,” Parsons said.

Junior Ahana Chakraborty also expressed gratitude for the care and positivity that Nakagawa brought to the choir.

“She did such a good job of making choir as ‘normal’ as possible through online learning,” Chakraborty said. “She taught us so many beautiful pieces of music and was always really patient with us.”

Chakraborty especially appreciated that Nakagawa fostered a positive environment and community in class. Nakagawa periodically arranged choir-themed games that helped the class bond and feel less stressed about school.

Nakagawa said she is thankful for how welcoming the music department staff has been and for the opportunity to work with Saratoga High students. 

“It is amazing to me how much I have grown to care for the students in the choir, even though we haven't been able to meet in person at all,” Nakagawa said. “I literally welcome them into my home every morning at 8:30 a.m. and we laugh and make music together.”

Music department chair Jason Shiuan said the department is fortunate to have had Nakagawa as part of the Saratoga music program. Shiuan appreciated the many late nights Nakagawa spent preparing class materials and editing audio and video files for performance videos.  

“Even though she is a long-term sub on paper, she has really treated this like a full-time position because she cares so deeply about the students,” Shiuan said.

Most of all, Nakagawa said she is proud of how the choir students have pushed through a semester of virtual learning and hopes to see the choir students soon. 

“It is absolutely my intent to return to SHS for a visit as soon as it is safe to do so,” Nakagawa said. “I can't wait to finally ‘meet’ everyone.”

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