Dorothy Freeman-Wittig, 17, hopes Juneau-Douglas High School will be the platform from which she launches a musical career. She plans to study music performance and education, and perhaps minor in chemistry, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"I do feel wonderfully well prepared academically, particularly for the field I'm going into," said Freeman-Wittig, one of about 370 graduating seniors expected to receive diplomas at Saturday's commencement.
Her ideal career? "I'd be a singer. I'd be a singer that could pick up the fiddle or a guitar," she said.
"Dorothy showed exceptional talent in music from the first day I met her in sixth grade," said Julia Bastuscheck, a music teacher in the Juneau schools.
Halfway through seventh grade, Freeman-Wittig told Bastuscheck she wanted to play in the middle-school orchestra.
"I was hesitant at first because the students in eighth-grade orchestra had already played for two years and she would be a beginner," Bastuscheck said. But Freeman-Wittig took lessons and by the fall was playing at the same level or even above the other students, the teacher said.
"Music is emotion," Freeman-Wittig said. "It helps me to cope with my emotions and it expresses my emotions through the music."
Freeman-Wittig, who said she's largely self-taught on the violin, has played in the JDHS chamber orchestra for four years, becoming the concertmaster this school year.
But she thinks of her voice as her main instrument, and has performed in the concert choir and jazz choir for two years. She said she has a three-octave range, from low tenor to high soprano, and is typically used as an alto.
"Because of my technical abilities I can convey more meaning through my voice than the violin," she said.
Freeman-Wittig sang in the choir at the All-State Honor Festival this year in Fairbanks and for two years at the Southeast Honor Festival.
"I have no life," she said, laughing. "When I'm not gaming (role-playing) or working, I'm at home in front of the piano or guitar or violin, or composing songs."
Sorting out her feelings, such as after breaking up with a boyfriend, and putting them in music and banging them out on a guitar "helps me to pull myself together," she said.
Freeman-Wittig said she sees some similarities between music and science, two of her interests.
"I've always wondered about how things work and how things fit together," she said. "Which is just like in music you can see how all parts fit together to create this thing."
Prom queen to prosecutor
Caroline Levale, 18, wasn't sure what she wanted to study in college until recently, but teachers guided her.
"I'd like to be a prosecuting attorney," Levale said. "The teachers did a really good job influencing me in what I want to do. When they made that suggestion, I just went with it."
The road from prom queen to prosecutor may take her through Hawaii. Levale had planned to attend the University of Maryland, but her family wanted her to be near relatives in Hawaii, so she's applying late to the University of Hawaii.
Whatever Levale ends up doing, it's likely to include talking to people. Levale, prom queen and student body president this year, likes to interact.
"I like very much being vocal," she said. "I like sharing with people what I think about things."
"If Caroline is in the room," said social studies teacher Gretchen Kriegmont, "you know there will be others around her listening to her stories - she is funny and witty."
"Caroline is not someone who is easily missed," agreed social studies teacher Paula Dybdahl. "The thing I appreciate most about her is the energetic approach she takes for every task, small or large. She takes on everything - often to a fault."
Levale played volleyball her first two years at JDHS and softball for three years. ("It helps you interact with other people.") She's been on the student government the past two years.
"I felt that there needed to be changes around the school to fit students who wanted the changes," she said.
Students "wanted more spirit at the assemblies, more spirit activities where we got the whole school involved. They wanted more interaction between teachers, students and staff," Levale said.
"Her commitment to this school is one that I have never seen in another high school," said Dybdahl, who calls Levale charismatic.
Levale found herself in the middle of a controversy this year when the school administration said it wanted to split the lunch period into two segments next school year. Many students wanted the school to continue with one lunch period so they could socialize with their friends or meet with teachers. Levale said she learned a lot from the experience.
"I learned how to interact with people," she said. "I took the time to realize you have to listen to everyone. You really have to be grown up and put what you feel aside."
Levale listed growing up and learning who you are among the main benefits of high school.
"In middle school, you're kind of coming out of that childhood," she said. "In high school, you experience people you've never known. It doesn't necessarily change you. It just forces you into who you are. High school is basically a place I left all the stereotypes in middle school behind.
"The education part of it, I did learn a lot. But I don't think you can learn something without experiencing it also. High school, I learned a lot about life."
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More JDHS seniors will be profiled in Friday's Empire.