At All Times-Psalm 34:1

September 19, 2013

My personal obituary for Miss North

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Whitney Standlea @ 9:08 pm

This past week someone very dear to me died. Miss North. Once we continued talking after high school she assured me that I could call her Rita, but it has never sounded right. She will always be Miss North. Miss North was my teacher in primary school. She taught my music classes where we sang “Lean on Me” at the end of class, played “Music Baseball” and fought over the triangle on days we got to use instruments. In fifth grade I was ushered into the magical world of choir through Miss North’s “5th & 6th Children’s Chorale,” and then bumped into the “7th and 8th Grade Select Choir.”

These four years of choral music experience under Miss North were nothing short of invaluable and formative to me as a person. If I could begin to list the things that I learned during this time it would start with all the finer fundamentals of vocal music. Breathing, diction, posture, vowel shapes, and such. I learned the finer points of great ensembles like hiding and altering consonants for clarity and effect, “whisking it,” and staggered breathing for exceptional phrasing. I was exposed to a wide variety of beautiful, challenging, rich music.

Beyond all this I was exposed to teacher who cared about us. Who loved what she did with a passion. It was watching Miss North teach that made me believe that being a music teacher must be a life calling. It certainly was hers. And in her own expressed words before our class, it was a calling God had placed on her life. She was unrelenting and bold in her pursuit of excellence for us as a group and for me as an individual. She could draw things out of ordinary kids that none of us knew was there. Under her leadership our choirs performed in state conventions, and I was taught the skills and provided with the opportunity to audition and perform in state and regional choirs, creating music in amazing settings.

I watched her dedication, her struggles, her tears, her anger, and her mistakes. I saw her as a giant-She really was one of the best. But I saw her fail. I saw her make decisions that made others unhappy. I was the times the tears flowed after school because no matter what she did, there was still a parent on the other end of the phone to cuss her out. It’s because of her that I have entered this new season as an athletic director’s wife that I already knew that my tip-top amazing husband could never make everybody happy, never call all the shots just right, and never avoid the drama that parents bring to the table when their kids are on the line-I’ve seen it before. Seeing her behind the scenes taught me early that even the best aren’t perfect, and even if they were it wouldn’t be good enough for everyone.

Being shy, timid, under confident, and awkward would be an accurate descriptions of myself in this season of life. Miss North treated me as a person with dignity, and brought me under her wing as a right-hand woman in assisting with the younger choirs and working after school as choir vice president and president. This woman got shy old me to audition for the lead role in the school musical (even though I didn’t make it), and gave me the skills to stand up in front of an audience with confidence and share my thoughts, my music, my heart all with purpose, even if it wasn’t without fear. No teacher should ever underestimate the skills and life lessons they can teach through a single discipline that can translate into every area of life.

Miss North let me spend my senior year assisting with her 6th Grade Music Class. She taught me the ends and outs of running class and structuring lessons. I watched her for four years as a student, and worked with her in many settings as an instructor. The wealth of teaching knowledge I gained from her has shaped my piano instruction in invaluable ways.

Miss North was more than a woman who taught music. She knew how to worship. She worshiped one true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. I saw her put her job and respect on the line to share her faith with her class and with students. She would let nothing get in the way of that. The grace of God undoubtedly sustained her through her many trials.  I often have looked back on Miss North as a promise of the purpose and joy that God can provide and sustain in someone through a life of singleness-a quality I have always appreciated witnessing in her.

When I look back on my grade school years the one thing I really miss is choir. I miss making a thing of beauty with others and recreating it in all its polished splendor to an audience.  As special as a gift that was, I don’t have to miss out on all the other lessons and gifts that Miss North taught me. They are an integral part of who I have become. One day, after school, Miss North took my hands in hers as we were playing parts together for a small rehearsal. She held them and blessed them in the name of the Lord, saying that those hands would be used by Him for amazing things. I never became a concert pianist, and I’m not a world-renown music teacher. But I thank God for blessing me through this woman and provided me with gifts, skills, and perspective that I have been able to use to bless others in so many ares of my life. I thank God for placing me in Miss North’s path and for all that I have been given through her.


1 Comment »

  1. Absolutely a wonderful testimony and tribute to an amazing woman!!!!

    Comment by Yia Yia — September 19, 2013 @ 9:39 pm |Reply

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