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A Tribute to a Music Teacher

I’m sad today because I just read the obituary of Jean Pearce, music teacher extraordinaire. She taught me several years of elementary music at Princeton School, and then I had her for four years in the Princeton High School chorus.

Miss Pearce was a no-nonsense professional, and she expected her students to be also. She introduced us to genres we didn’t listen to on the radio. I remember learning in fourth or fifth grade about movements and how to listen for them in classical pieces.

In chorus, we tackled difficult acapella pieces and sang in French and German as well as other languages. The ensemble, made up of her best students, consistently earned superior rankings in competitions.

Ms. Pearce was a formidable teacher at times, but she gave excellence to her students and demanded it back from them. She didn’t tolerate chewing gum, whispering, or not breathing from the diaphragm. By seventh period, the end of our school day, we slumped in hard, auditorium seats in our practice room. She remedied the slouching that prevented correct breathing by ordering several, long wooden slats from the Ag shop. Placed across the arms of the chairs, the slats made us sit up straight and sing properly.

Being a piano player, I drew the lucky stick of being one of her accompanists. On one afternoon after ruining a particular measure several times in a row, Billy Daughtry shouted from the bass section, “Let her try it with her toes, Miss Pearce!” Anyone who’s seen my toes will understand that statement.

The whole class roared. Miss Pearce’s normal composure shattered, and she joined in with the hoots. I remember nothing after that humiliation except her grin and giggle and the fact that the floor did not open up and accept me.

She didn’t care about being buddies with her students. She cared about teaching music. She pushed us to be our best and taught us the skills we needed to get to the top—exactly as a great teacher should. Thank you, Miss Jean Pearce! We were so lucky to have you.

 

Her obituary http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/newsobserver/obituary.aspx?n=doris-jean-pearce&pid=184976916&fhid=16895