In late January, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Herald writer Jessica Schonberg. Throughout my years of teaching, I have dreaded interviews, feeling awkward and "on the spot." Jessica, however, was a breath of fresh air. Not only did she put me at ease with her conversational, personable interview style, but also she went out of her way to contact me several more times to make sure she got the complete story. Jessica Schonberg is a huge asset to our newspaper and to the Rock Hill community. We are fortunate to have her!
Jessica's well-written piece has spurred numerous reactions to my decision to step away from the podium. I expected this and would like the community to understand even further the nature of my decision. In 2001, after I had almost completed two years as choral director at Northwestern, I approached my husband with the concern of the balance of work and family. The amount of time I was spending away from him and our girls was unreal, yet necessary for the program to thrive within a scheduling system that did not allow the choir to meet together during the school day. My amazing husband, who for nine years has been Mr. Mom and has never once complained about it, encouraged me to continue, saying that, in his eyes, I was part of a bigger mission that teenagers in Rock Hill needed.
Henry Drummond said, "I shall pass through this world but once, any good therefore, that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." These words have guided me well. So many people look at my degrees and experience and think that I do what I do because of the music. In reality, I do what I do because I want to make a difference in the lives of teenagers.
Music has been the hook, but I hope the students take away a lot more from my class than musical knowledge and vocal training. I want them to find a passion, a purpose in life. I want them to know that, yes, they can live through the trials of today's society, and that they themselves can be a catalyst for change. I want them to know that upon graduation and no matter how far away life takes them, they've got someone here in Rock Hill pulling for them.
So, you see, stepping down from the post of choral director has been amazingly difficult on the one hand but an obvious "right" decision on the other. These teenagers are an extension of my family. They have brought me such undeserved joy just by allowing me to be a part of their world and trusting me to lead. My own two girls, well ... I think that since I was given the privilege of giving birth to them that I have the responsibility to be there to rear them. As I told Jessica, I just can't give advice to my growing children as I'm running out the door to a rehearsal. This move, then, was a choice between two "goods," two "rights." It would have been much easier if it had been between a wrong and a right.
I am so thankful that in my new job at Northwestern, I still will be among teenagers. I am so thankful for the blessings bestowed upon me during these past nine years. Also, I thank you, the community, for your support of Northwestern's choral program. I encourage you to put the dates of April 30, May 1 and May 2 on your calendars, for on the Northwestern stage, these teenagers will once again prove to you the power of family.