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 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).