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Large debt of gratitude owed to music teachers

(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Patricia Farrell is a Tualatin resident who has a bachelor of music degree from Chapman College, Orange, Calif., and has sung in a number of choirs throughout her life.)

Not jazz. Not rock. Not classical. Music. Maybe it is jazz. Or maybe it's not. Maybe it is rock - or maybe it's classical music that makes your boat float. Or maybe old fashioned croony songs. Is it an R and H musical? Or maybe, just maybe it's opera that will keep your mother or father or grandaunt or dear sweet uncle or a precious child out of an early grave.

When I was studying music theory at Chapman College (now University) in Orange, Calif., back in the mid '80s, I received a phone call from my mother. The earth moved under my feet. My beloved daddy had had a heart attack and was in intensive care. My hands shook so that I could hardly write the '1-4-6/4-5-1' under the test staff. Thankfully, my grade had remained high through the course, and this test was simply a formality, due to my life-long ear training gained during countless dreamy hours in front of the stereo on my dad's lap, as he played his own father's favorite Souza marches and Strauss waltzes.

Some weeks later another phone conversation informed me that dad was needing something, and the doctors didn't know what. Finally mom told me he had asked for my recording of our Brahms Requiem concert, by the William Hall Chorale, of which I was a joyful member. That had been the very first great work sung in any form by anyone in my dad's family since his father had immigrated from Ontario, Canada, around 1920. Mom prevailed upon the doctors and was allowed to bring my recording and a small record player to the ICU. I heard the following week that Dad was being released, he had progressed so well.

Two weeks ago, we received a very disturbing phone call: my husband's mother, always strong for a lone woman in her 80s, was not well. My husband and his sister flew south to care for their mother, who underwent emergency spinal surgery due to a collapsed vertebra in her lumbar region which three doctors somehow missed. She was recovering well from her surgery, but today has had a setback. Apparently she did not waken totally during the day and was not as coherent as she has been in the last few days. I consulted my own sister, a certified nurse's assistant, who immediately suggested we bring in mom's favorite music to energize her. I had asked if there was a radio in her room, but strangely there was not, although there was a TV. My husband will request a radio that will receive her favorite classical station, which she has lived by all her life. Apparently, people remember why they want to live when they hear their favorite kind of music, whatever it may be.

My sister has seen it time and again.

I have heard there is resistance at the high school and middle school to vocal music involvement for the students. Supposedly this is because the principal and teachers feel taking time to learn music is wasteful or eccentric to their purpose of growing a student's mind. This disturbs me greatly, and more so when I hear that students are let out of class with no trouble for any sports event.

When my daughter was required to attend a choral function that took her away from the high school through second period (one extra period), the teacher of that second period class marked an unexcused absence, though he was told where she was. Some teachers have accused choral directors of teaching insignificant studies, compared to math, science or sports. This utterly appalls me.

The choral educator at Tualatin High School is a very fine musician and outstanding teacher of the art whose work reaches a teen's mind in such ways that all benefit greatly from their involvement with her program. Recently 'Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat' showcased the extent to which music is training our kids for independent thinking, logic, memorization, language arts (tonal memory), social skills, following directions, team building, self-confidence, sales, advertising, public relations, fund-raising, historical perspective and political relevance - not to mention theatre arts.

But what is that to you? I'll tell you what it is to me. When my father died of cancer in 2002, 'The Sound of Music' was playing on his TV.

When I go to visit my mother-in-law, I will go equipped with recordings of my daughter and me singing certain meaningful songs, in which we were accompanied by grandma.

And here's what I want to know today: Who taught Julie Andrews to sing like that? Who taught the Von Trapp Family singers to sing, dance and act like that? Who will be there to teach my daughter's children? What kind of music brings you back from the grave or sings you to heaven? It doesn't matter. But don't you just hope with all your being that when it's your turn, there will be someone to sing or play it?

I believe this town owes a huge debt of gratitude to our music teachers. I know I do. Thank you, Kim Kroeger.