Sister Benedicta

I wrote recently about the universality of singing. Some reactions to the post reminded me that there are teachers out there who choose to squash the musical spark in children. With the lengths many of us go to turn on lights in students, I get terribly angry about those turning off lights.

My mom loves singing. She is a Broadway fan, has a deep knowledge of classic movie musicals, and of course went to more than her fair share of choir concerts over the years.

And last year she joined a choir for the first time since eighth grade. And after a year singing, she remains self-conscious and convinced that she can’t carry a tune. (She can.)

There are few people who make me angrier than Sister Benedicta, the nun who turned off the light in my mom.

Seventh grade she was kicked out of choir. Eighth grade, when the entire class sang together, Sister Benedicta stood behind my mom on the risers, poked her in the ribs with her knuckle, and hissed, “Too loud! Too loud!”

Mom’s next time singing in public was roughly a half-century later.

This woman who loves everything about singing, who could have had a lifetime of local theater productions, church choir, community choir, or who knows what else, lived much of her life believing what that nun told her.

We music educators have a mission to lift up our students and to send them on a trajectory that will include a lifetime of music-making.

I hope you remember Sister Benedicta next time you have a student with trouble matching pitch. Lift them up and keep their light shining.