This month’s winner: Janet Fredrick, Vocal Music Teacher at Hopi

Nominated by: The Musselmann Family

Did you always have an interest in music? 

I was raised in a musical family. All my siblings and parents were musicians. Two of my sisters have music degrees as well. My brother was in a band. My dad played trombone and my mother used to sing on the radio. We were just a very musical family and it was a benefit from day one. We all took piano and all had the experience of church choirs. Piano was my thing though. And then singing was my second. 

What do you love about music? 

It’s a mood changer. It’s a mood-altering part of life. It can stir you up and it can calm you down. It puts babies to sleep, it puts big people to sleep. The aesthetics of it are just incomparable to anything else I can think of. 

I had first graders in tears unintentionally the other day. We were doing something for Mother’s Day and I was teaching them a song that doesn’t even have the word mother in it. But it talks about how they were babies and now they walk and talk, and three of the kids were crying. It just touches them. 

Tell about your class and

what the kids learn.   

For the little ones, it’s mostly feeling and reacting to it. They learn with a percussion instrument for the beat. The older ones are reading notes, and learning band instruments and string instruments. The majority of it is singing. And then experiencing it through body movement and instrument playing. 

And the other thing is, rather than teach kids how to do music, I like to think of it in terms of teaching the kids through the music. Through music, they learn concepts in history, math. They can incorporate music with all the integrated things that we need to teach them. 

What do you think your favorite

part about teaching is? 

It’s getting to know the kids. You know, I have them from kindergarten through 5th grade, so I spend six years with them, if they stay in the class. I’ve had most of these 5th graders since they were five years old. I’ve watched them grow and I’ve had their siblings. 

We do musicals, and I have kids who, maybe they aren’t singers but they’ll join chorus for the comradery. Being in a chorus or a supportive group like that can really bring some kids out of their shell, which I think is so important. I’ve seen kids transformed from these stoic little people who won’t even open their mouth to kids who think they’re going to be on Broadway. 

That must make it tough to say

goodbye at the end, when you’ve

had these kids for so many years. 

Oh, it’s horrible! But I have kids that come back and visit often. Some will come to the concerts and I’ll get emails from them. I teach a song called Song of the Presidents, where we sing every president from George Washington to our current president. And I’ve had kids who will tell me, I was taking a test on the Presidents and I didn’t even have to stop and think. All because of that song!