Before our kids came along, we both taught music and choir in K-12 schools. Charlie taught high school and Carrie taught elementary school general music. Like many teachers, we were OBSESSED with our jobs, spending many-an-hour after “closing time” perfecting rehearsal plans and lesson materials, calling parents, rehearsing for musicals and special concerts, filling out paperwork, all-the-things.

When our first child Nora was born in 2017, things looked a little different for us.

Charlie was still teaching high school choir and Carrie was working for an online education company from home and teaching children’s choir at church. But no longer could we spend all of our time at our jobs preparing lessons and working on resources for our choirs. Children change the game!

Charlie’s long hours teaching with endless commitments to show choir, honors ensembles, field trips, no department secretary and revolving door accompanists meant that SO much fell on his plate at work.

Rehearsals were his oasis in the midst of #alltheadmin, and although sight-reading and music literacy were daily activities in his choirs he often found that he spent so much time rehearsing notes and rhythms multiple times in rehearsals. He had almost no time to plan and was barely making life-changing music with his choirs.

This craziness and frustration stole a lot of the joy out of his teaching.

And the one night of the week that Carrie taught her children’s choirs, many of the children could not read music, so much of the time we learned by rote ‘n reps, as they say. Not the most thrilling music-making, especially when you are singing for the Lord!

One of the things that seemed to take the burden off? – when we made rehearsal tracks for our singers. The expectation was on the singer to rehearse and perfect all notes and rhythms at home (after learning them on solfege first during rehearsal, of course).

Talk about a weight off of our shoulders.

Suddenly, Charlie’s students were coming to class with their notes and rhythms down. Charlie would call me out of breath, with tears in his eyes at the beauty the singers were able to create because they were CONFIDENT in their notes and rhythms and were PRESENT to each other and him as director.

At church choir, Carrie’s singers were leading masses confidently and even being selected for regional honors choirs because of their increased confidence after singing with the tracks she made.

The truth is, there’s safety in numbers, and when singers could rehearse outside of class with other voices, they felt more comfortable and safe. We knew we were called to be with these singers, that these kids were born to sing, and now we were working in synergy.

There is NO better feeling.

Over the past four years, we’ve had the opportunity to create tracks and teaching resources for choirs all over the world. Carrie also works as a Managing Editor for the largest provider of online K-12 elective courses in North America, giving oversight for standards-based K-12 course development and working in social-emotional and inquiry-based learning styles. Charlie serves as section leader and deputy director of the Ambassadors of Harmony, the four-time international champion men’s Barbershop chorus. We both sing frequently in the St. Louis area.

In the nooks and crannies, we steal lots of meals, playtime and outings with our kids (and pick up LOTS and crayons).

Although we grew up only hours from each other and were raised in different family atmospheres, we both found a love for music. We both grew up taking piano lessons and singing in choirs through school, church, and their communities. We met studying vocal music education at the University of Missouri St. Louis and later taught elementary and high school music in the St. Louis area.

Charlie’s Background

I was blessed to have been raised in a musically-gifted family, and knew from a young age that my God-given talents would one day help others. Both of my parents are accomplished and award-winning jazz artists. There was always tasteful music being played in the car! As a child I was busy with piano lessons, church choir, concert band (percussion), musicals, variety shows, and marching band competitions.

Although I loved playing classical piano and working on my technique as a percussionist, I always gravitated more towards choral and vocal music. It was probably all of the Al Jerreau, Take 6, Hi-Lo’s, and other great singers and groups my family listened to growing up. I still did my fill of piano competitions, state festivals, and percussion ensemble performances (my favorite was always leading the drumline). But I became the typical choir nerd: a two-time Missouri All-State Choir member, always trying to enter as many vocal ensembles combinations for state festival, and singing and performing outside of school as much as possible.

There are many honors I hold close to my heart. I’ve had arrangements premiered at the Missouri Choral Directors Association annual conference and the World Choir Games in Belgium. I’ve been invited to be a clinician at many acappella summer camps. And I have traveled the world doing what I love – singing.

Now as a former high school choir director, I spend some of my singing-time in the Ambassadors of Harmony – a 4-time international championship chorus – where I write arrangements, produce choral rehearsal tracks, and step in as director when needed. I also frequently cantor at local Catholic churches in and around the St. Louis area. And when I’m not in front of a microphone, you can usually find me at home playing with our 3 beautiful and silly children.

Carrie’s Background

I grew up surrounded by music, although everyone in my immediate family is in healthcare; no one else pursued music seriously as a hobby or profession. Nonetheless, one of my first memories is singing along to “A Chorus Line” soundtrack in the car as a youngster and teaching myself to play piano by ear at age four.

As a child I dove headfirst into studying piano and made my way into vocal music and musicals in middle school, with the support of some life-changing teachers (you know who you are!) By high school, I was an official choir-nerd, serving as section leader (I have piano skills to thank for that ability!) in choirs and performing in various honor choirs, developing deep friendships along the way that anchored my heart in the beauty and community of choral music.

After studying anthropology and Asian Studies in college, traveling the globe, and teaching children in India, Vietnam and Seattle, I realized teaching was in my heart, and what better subject to teach than choral music – the art that stirs the soul unlike any other! I returned to school for a second undergraduate degree in music education in 2013, where I met a cute tenor…

After teaching and working with choirs professionally for several years, I decided to work from home in a more flexible capacity to accommodate the “creative” needs and sleep schedules of our three young children. Now, I am an active cantor in the local Catholic diocese and also work for an educational publishing company as a Managing Editor, overseeing the development of K-12 online courses. An entrepreneurial spirit at heart, I have dreams of starting several non-profit choral projects to impact more lives through choral music.

We were married in May of 2016 while we were both teaching and welcomed our first child in February 2017. The transition to parenthood brought out our entrepreneurial spirits, and we started Kinnison Music (now Kinnison Choral Co.) in 2017.

This is us with our three children–Nora (4), Noah (2.5), and Isaiah (just turned 1!) They’re a ton of fun and energy and are obsessed with Pentatonix. We are so grateful to be able to use the talents that God gave us while still raising our family. Just another day at the office!

We know that charting your own choral path in any fashion always takes risk, vulnerability and sacrifice. Don’t forget to congratulate yourself on your accomplishments.