Robert W. Harris, Buffalo Elementary Music and Department Chair
Robert W. Harris currently teaches grades one thru five general music, fourth and fifth grade choir, and The Select Choir at Buffalo Elementary School in the Freeport Area School District and also serves as the chairperson of the music department. He also serves as the director of Buffalo Elementary’s musical productions. Prior to his elementary classroom appointment, Bob was the 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 Music and 6th Grade Middle School Music
Jennifer Dell currently teaches General Music at South Buffalo Elementary School and 6th Grade General Music at Freeport Area Middle School. She directs the fourth and fifth grade choruses and works with the flute students at South Buffalo. In addition, Mrs. Dell directs the 6th Grade Honors Chorus and teaches flute lessons at the Middle School. Prior to coming to the Freeport Area School District, 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, Director of Elementary Instrumental Music
Mr. Ortego is currently the Director of Elementary Bands in the Freeport Area School District and has been since 2004. 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.
Chaz Shipman, Middle School & High School Bands
Chaz Shipman is currently the Band Director at Freeport Area Middle School and Freeport Area High School. He teaches grades 6-12, conducting the HS Marching Band, HS Symphonic Band, HS Wind Ensemble, HS Jazz Ensemble, HS Jazz Band, 6th/7th/8th Grade Concert Bands, and MS Jazz Ensemble. Prior to his appointment at Freeport, he taught elementary instrumental and vocal music at Highlands School District. Mr. Shipman received his B.S. in Music Education and M.Ed. degrees at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as well as PreK-12 Principal Certification from Point Park University. He is currently working on receiving his Doctor of Education degree. Mr. Shipman resides in Buffalo Township.