Last week, Forte welcomed Katie Hone Wiltgen as its Chief Education Officer. Forte Co-Founder, Mark Murtagh, had some thoughts about this exciting addition to the team:
“I am thrilled that Katie is joining Forte as our Chief Education Officer. The Aspen Music Festival and School is widely known as one of the most prestigious, competitive, and innovative music education institutions in the world. As the Dean of Education and Community there, Katie did amazing work with the world’s most elite music students. Just as importantly, she found ways to make the benefits of that elite education broadly available to a larger population of diverse students. This combination of the broadest possible access to the highest quality music education is what Forte is all about. As ‘our other CEO,’ she will uphold our commitment to educational excellence for all Forte learners, from beginners to aspiring professionals.”
Below you can get to know Katie a bit more and hear her thoughts on music education and what inspired her to join Forte.
Hi Katie! Tell us about yourself:
I am beyond thrilled to be stepping into the role of Chief Education Officer with Forte. I spent the last nine years at the Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS), one of the most prestigious and competitive classical summer music programs in the world. In this role, it was my pleasure to oversee all AMFS programming for children and families, including the popular in-school and after-school AfterWorks programs of Beginning Strings, Chamber Music Lab, Lead Guitar, and Maroon Bel Canto Choirs, offered in 26 elementary and middle schools, with over 400 students participating in sustained music classes throughout the school year. During the busy AMFS summer season, I ran a full series of family and youth events, including family concerts for all ages, a private lesson program, and a mariachi workshop.
Originally from Celina, Ohio, I earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education (choral, instrumental, and general music) and Vocal Performance (mezzo-soprano) from Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) and a Master of Music in Conducting and Music Education from Colorado State University. I am active as a conductor, vocal soloist/collaborator, and music educator in the Aspen area, and I love taking advantage of everything mountain living offers! My husband John and I are the proud parents of eleven-year-old Lela Mac and eight-year-old Kurt.
What excites you most about the future of music education?
Great teachers excite me! I love getting to know teachers, learning what motivates them, and helping them be their best. After working with and coaching new music educators over the last 10+ years, I’m hugely excited by what they bring to students day after day.
In my former role as Dean of Education at the Aspen Music Festival and School, I had the opportunity to interact with the up-and-coming stars of the classical music world. AMFS students are the best of the best… They’re selected through a highly competitive audition process and many are students at the world’s top music colleges and conservatories. For me, the BEST part of being around them was seeing their passion for music education and, for many, their desire to become excellent teachers themselves. Every summer, over 100 AMFS students taught Aspen-area elementary through high school students in a series of private lessons, and I watched huge musical growth occur for both the students and the teachers themselves. I couldn’t help but be excited by the energy of the teachers as they created musically motivating moments for their students and developed their own voices as music educators.
There are so many fabulous, talented, inspiring music educators out there, and I’m always excited when I see sparks being lit in students’ eyes when they connect with a teacher who truly gets them. When teaching is intentional and pedagogically sound and when learning is fun and engaging, it makes students want to come back for more. There’s nothing better!
How do you see elite music education becoming more accessible?
Two things jump to mind immediately: the elimination of geographic limitations, and the expansion of equity-based music programming.
I love that with Forte, we are no longer limited to music education experiences that are only connected to where we live. Growing up in a small town in Ohio, I was lucky to have excellent school band and choir programs and dedicated music teachers, but options and opportunities were limited. I had friends who traveled more than two hours away for private lessons, because that’s what it took to reach a strong teacher. I always wanted to learn to play cello but there weren’t any cello instructors in my area… so I never learned. Online music lessons make all the difference. High-quality music education is now available to anyone, anywhere, and that’s a game changer.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked hard to bring music education experiences to students and families who might not otherwise have access. It’s been my mission to connect kids to musical learning, regardless of whether they can afford to rent or buy an instrument or whether they can pay the tuition and lesson fees that are often so out of reach for families. We can’t expect to see diversity expand at all levels and venues in the music world unless we fund music education for historically under-resourced populations. You only have diverse musicians in positions of power if they were given the support they needed to start being music students in the first place! Equity-based music education programs are expanding rapidly, from the AMFS’s AfterWorks programs to El Sistema-inspired programs nationwide, and I couldn’t be more proud.
What inspired you to join the Forte team?
I started collaborating with three members of the Forte team back in 2021 (Liam, Hunter, and Mark), and I was hugely impressed with their can-do spirit, their commitment to excellence in music education, and the great product they were building in Forte. It’s been thrilling to watch Forte take shape and evolve over these past couple of years, and when I was approached with the opportunity to work as part of the Forte team, I knew I had to jump on it. This is an exhilarating time in the world of music education, and Forte is bringing so many possibilities to students and teachers alike. I’m thrilled to now be a part of the Forte energy and to have the opportunity to contribute to this music education community!
Interesting fact about yourself:
I’m happiest when I’m outside and with my family. Skiing, hiking, mountain biking… I love it all, and it doesn’t get better than chasing my kids down the mountain or along a trail.
Also, potato chips are my weakness. I firmly believe that any size bag can be a single-serving container.