Robert W. Harris, Buffalo Elementary Chorus & Musical
Robert W. Harris currently directs the Buffalo Elementary Grades 4-5 Choruses and the Elementary Musical in the Freeport Area School District. He also serves as the director of Buffalo Elementary’s musical productions. Prior to his current appointment, Bob was the Elementary General Music Teacher at Buffalo Elementary School and Director of Secondary Instrumental Music at Freeport.
Bob received his Music Education degree from Clarion University and has done graduate work at Duquesne University. He has studied conducting with Dr. Casey Teske and Dr. Robert Cameron and saxophone with Dr. Michelle Kiec and Dr. Karen Dannessa. As a saxophonist, Bob has performed with numerous concert and jazz groups around Western Pennsylvania. Bob is also an active instrumentalist and vocalist at St. Margaret Mary Church in Lower Burrell. He has served as a marching band instructor with numerous competitive and non-competitive bands in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. He currently serves as a music judge for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association (PIMBA). Bob has served as a guest conductor for the PMEA District 2 Jazz Band Festival in 2012, the PMEA District 3 Band Fest Festival in 2014, the Indiana County High School Band Festival in January of 2015, and the PMEA District 2 Band Fest in May of 2015. He will also be serving as the guest conductor for the PMEA District 2 Jazz Band Festival in February of 2018.
Currently, Bob has an active drill writing schedule; writing shows for competitive and non-competitive marching bands every summer. He is a show design consultant and drill designer for the Leechburg Marching Band and is part of the music and visual instructional team for the nationally-recognized Kiski Area Marching Band. Bob lives in Lower Burrell with his wife, Carrie, and their daughters, Kathryn and Annabelle.
Jennifer Dell, South Buffalo Elementary Band/Chorus/General Music & 6th-Grade General Music
Jennifer Dell is the music specialist at South Buffalo Elementary School and 6th Grade General Music at Freeport Area Middle School. She directs the fourth and fifth-grade choruses and directs the fifth grade band at South Buffalo. Mrs. Dell maintained a private flute and piano studio and has performed locally for 20 years. She has been an active volunteer in her church, directing musicals and conducting children's choirs, and has volunteered with the Children's Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh, now Pittsburgh Youth Chorus. Mrs. Dell graduated summa cum laude from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Music Education. She has studied conducting under Dr. Jack Stamp and flute under Dr. Carl Adams, Nancy Etris, and Margaret Claudin.
Thomas D. Koharchik, Director of Secondary Vocal Music
Thomas D. Koharchik is the Director of Secondary Vocal Music for the Freeport Area School District. He directs the Junior High Mixed Chorus, Senior High Concert Choir, Women’s Ensemble and “Forte!”, the newly created Show Choir. In addition to his duties as choral director, Mr. Koharchik also serves as the Senior High Fall Play Director and Music Theater Director and Stage Manager. He is the director of the North Hills Chorale, an adult community choir in Pittsburgh, and the Director of Music Liturgy at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Freeport. Mr. Koharchik served 14 years as a member of the United States Army Reserves, and concluded his service in July or 2012 with a rank of Staff Sergeant (E6). He is a member of NAfME, ACDA, and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Mr. Koharchik also serves as the Secretary and Treasurer of PMEA District 3. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Music Education Degree in 2003 and recently finished his Masters of Music Education studies at Duquesne University. He has studied choral conducting with Dr. Jerry Blackstone, Dr. Paul Rardin, and Dr. Rodney Eichenberger. He is married to Heather Koharchik and has three daughters, Abigail Marie, Emily Elizabeth, and Hayley Ann.
Mark Ortego, Buffalo Elementary Band/Music
Mr. Ortego is currently the music specialist at Buffalo Elementary School where he teaches K-5 General Music and directs the 5th-grade band program. From 2004-2022, Mr. Ortego directed the elementary band programs in both elementary buildings. From 1999-2004, Mr. Ortego was the Freeport High School Band Director. Prior to working here at Freeport, he was the Band Director at Johnson City High School (Johnson City, NY) from 1997-1999 and from 1996-1997 was the band director at North Catholic High School in Pittsburgh. Mr. Ortego's very first full-time band director job was here at Freeport as a long-term substitute for Mr. Al Verbena in the 1995-1996 school year. Mr. Ortego served in the US Army from 1987-1990 as an Army bandsman. He then pursued a degree in Music Education at Duquesne University where he made the Dean's List during all of his years in attendance. Mr. Ortego is known for his passion while teaching by encouraging his students to strive for their very best while enjoying music. His background in marching music is extensive; since 1974 to present Mr. Ortego has been involved in marching music as either a performer or instructor. His most notable accomplishments as a performer was winning the coveted Drum Corps International Championship in the summer of 1982 as a member of the Blue Devils. As a band director, Mr. Ortego lead the 1996 North Catholic Marching band to two championships; PIMBA and T.O.B. Mr. Ortego resides in New Kensington with his two children, Lauren and Megan. In addition to listening to jazz music as a hobby Mr. Oretgo is an avid board and card gamer. He was the first sponsor of the Freeport High School Chess Club. Also, Mr. Ortego enjoys watching sci-fi adventure movies, hanging out with family and friends, and lifting weights.
Nicholas J. Smith, Middle School & High School Bands
Mr. Nicholas J. Smith is the Director of Bands at Freeport Area Middle and High School where he oversees the 6th-8th Grade Bands, 9th/10th Grade Band, 11th/12th Grade Band, Jazz Bands and the Pride of Freeport Area High School, the Freeport Yellowjacket Marching Band. He previously served as Director of Bands at Valley Jr/Sr High School in New Kensington, PA. His duties at Valley included directing the Valley Viking Marching Band, 9-12 Grade Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, Junior High Band, Pit Orchestra Director, Show Choir Director, and Music Teacher. Prior to his appointment at Valley, he served as the Director of Bands and K-8 Music Teacher at Commodore Perry High School in Hadley, PA.
Mr. Smith holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Grove City College where he graduated with Honors. While there he studied conducting with Dr. Edwin P. Arnold, Dr. Joseph M. Pisano, Dr. Richard Konzen and Mr. Louis Collela. He earned a Master’s Degree in Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Completed Post-Master’s Coursework in Principal Certification. Mr. Smith has hosted virtually every possible honors band festival and was asked to be the guest conductor of the 2019 Armstrong County Honors Band Festival.
Mr. Smith is a graduate of Freeport Area School District and currently lives in the district with his wife Crystal and twin sons Cameron and Duke. It is a great honor for him to be welcomed home to continue the tradition of excellence in the Freeport Area Music Department that helped create his passion for music in our schools.