Indiana Area Senior High School

Dr. Laird departs: IHS says goodbye to a true trailblazer


Dr. Julianne Laird, the orchestra and choir director at IHS, has spent decades in the Indiana Area School District. She has taught at almost every building, led generations of students to success, and cared for every student that passed through her classrooms. Now, she prepares to retire on January 27.

It is an understatement to say that she has enormously impacted the community at IHS, and she will most certainly leave a great legacy behind.

For some students, Dr. Laird was the kickoff of their music career. “She has been influencing my music-making since I was very young, starting me on violin,” says junior Joey Baunoch.

Dr. Laird sees the potential in everyone, somehow always knowing when a student has some secret potential that even they may not be aware of. It’s a sixth sense exclusive to her.

She continued to support and educate Baunoch through high school, and “because of her, [he has] a wonderful, musical community where [he] can go and be [himself] every day.” This is the magic of Dr. Laird; she has the ability to make each student feel like they are her only student, it’s just her nature. Simultaneously, she forges strong bonds everywhere she goes and leaves strong friendships in her wake. 

“Thanks to her, I no longer fear being a leader,” adds senior Emily Sands. Sands was given the position of concertmaster in her senior year. The concertmaster sits as the first chair, tunes the orchestra, and gets any solo that a piece may have. Dr. Laird passionately led Emily to this role, showing her how “important practicing is,” and that she could do the job of concertmaster and do it well: yet another excellent example of her ability to see through a student’s nervousness and straight to what they are truly capable of.

There is a reason that Dr. Laird’s students speak so highly of her; a reason that they preach her ability to unlock a student’s potential. She leads with both strength and grace, and never judges anyone. Watching her conduct an orchestra or teach a class is like watching Van Gogh paint Starry Night. A little bit wild, but truly beautiful.

“I subscribe to the idea that the teacher makes the class,” describes Baunoch. “Her love and care for her students is unmatched, and if I had a favorite teacher, it would be her.” He is right; her always-open door and pure passion for the music and people that fill her days are what cause her to stand out as a pop of color in a sea of black and white.

The star of the show, Dr. Laird, informs me that after she retires, not only is she “very interested in travel” and “wants to spend time with her grandchildren,” but she also hopes to conduct research regarding folk genres of music and Americana. She has many auditions lined up and hopes to be able to continue teaching, all while researching and performing. This statement alone is even more evidence of her hard-working, bold, and truly passionate attitude.

As for what she hopes to leave in her wake, she comments on feeling how she is “a bridge to whoever is going to be the next dynasty here, especially in the chorus.” She continues on, telling me how she feels she “brought a sense of history” to the district because she has been in the district so long; she knows how things have been, how they are, and how she would like them to be. “I know things need to change and grow, and I want to see them change and grow, but I do have that unique sense of history,” she says.

She also commented that she hopes that people never forget the creative things that she did while she has had this position, such as the “Music the Gathering” concert, or the combined orchestra and chorus Vivaldi Gloria concert. She is the trailblazer who proposed new ideas, who brought her programs into the light and let them shine, careful to push them, but never to shove. It is certain that she will be remembered this way. 

Dr. Laird will be greatly missed. She not only proved to multiple generations of students that they could unleash their talent and lead their peers, but that they are not alone; they have each other, they have their community, and they have her. IHS is going to be very different without her.

[Photo by Erik Puskar] Dr. Laird performing at this year’s Teddy bear Fund Drive Variety Show.

Emma Sheeran


Emma is a senior and a first-year reporter for the High Arrow. She has been intensely involved with the IHS music department for all four years of high school, including attending state-level competitions and playing with the PSO. She is looking forward to working in a journalistic setting and putting the education she receives here towards a career in journalism.

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