Thomas Chester: New to West, Experienced at Music


Ella Ilg

This is Mr. Chester's first year teaching at Niles West.

By Ella Ilg, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Orchestra teacher Thomas Chester is the newest addition to Niles West’s Fine Arts Department as the Director of Orchestras. On the orchestra website he provides facts about his favorite food — pizza — his favorite color — red — and his favorite composers — Holst, Tchaikovsky, and Grainger. It’s important to get to know a teacher, especially a new teacher, on a deeper level though, beyond favorite food and color.

After hearing good things about the school’s art department, he interviewed for the position of Orchestra Director. The Arts Department Director, Patti Anne Ford thought he would make a great addition to the Arts Department here at West.

“He came in and he was just super unique. I knew the students would love him because he had an amazing personality, he was very much himself. He was very comfortable in his own skin and very upfront about who he is, what his philosophy of education is, why he does what he does and how he does it,” Ford said.

Chester grew up in Joliet, starting orchestra in middle school with his first instrument, the viola. By high school his talents caused him to be recruited for the school marching band, and by his senior year, he was being scouted by several colleges.

“He’s a super talented musician and a really hard-working musician, and our program kind of demands that,” Ford said. “We’re a really high performing high school, our music program is really high performing so his background and his work ethic and what he has done to get to where he is today made sense for what he would be walking into.”

For college, he moved to DeKalb to receive his Bachelor’s in Music Education at Northern Illinois University.

“I feel like I always wanted to be a better teacher and teach people things that I didn’t know that I should’ve known ten years sooner,” Chester said.

Though new to this school, Chester is not new to teaching. He taught middle school band for five years at Lincoln Middle School in Berwyn, bringing the band to several festivals for students.

“I always felt like I connect with people well and that I can convey my ideas well, and I love seeing kids just discover information. That’s all education is, just discovering and using new information,” Chester said.

One of his students, sophomore Mia Finnigan finds Chester to be engaging and is appreciative of the fact that he too was a violist. Chester is an addition to West’s art department that is very welcome.

“I’ve had two other teachers besides him. My first teacher was a lot calmer, but didn’t make the same jokes or talk with the students like Mr. Chester does,” Finnigan said. “I like that I finally have a teacher who was a violist first and that he has a lot of energy when he’s teaching and makes jokes with us while still staying on task.”