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Cory Zilisch

Director of Orchestras
Westport Middle School
Louisville, Kentucky

The orchestra at Westport Middle School has been described as electrifying — that’s because it’s an electric orchestra! “The Westport Rock N’ Warhawks is the only one of its kind in a middle school … It is the most technologically advanced orchestra program in the United States today, and it is known throughout the country for its highly skilled and diversity of talent,” said Cory Zilisch, Westport’s director of orchestras.

Students in the orchestra are introduced to a variety of rock, pop and classical music; learn choreography and floor movements for their performances; and can experiment with all the sounds that electric instruments produce. Students also learn to improvise and create their own music. The Rock N’ Warhawks perform at various school and community events, activities and conferences in Kentucky.

The popularity of the electric orchestra has helped Zilisch grow his orchestra by 400% in five years. “Simply taking that group and performing around the city has caused so many kids to want to join the program,” Zilisch said. “Another big recruitment tool is our social media presence. Word has gotten around town about our program and we have kids clamoring to be a part of it!”

In addition to the Rock N’ Warhawks, Zilisch oversees the 6th grade, 7th grade and 8th grade orchestras, as well as a chamber orchestra.  According to one of his “40 Under 40” nomination letters, “I would wager a large sum that Cory Zilisch is the most impressive, young orchestra teacher in the United States. … He holds a high bar for behavior, encouragement and achievement in his ensembles that has a radiating effect on the school population as a whole.”