Remarks by Elise Skaggs, Distinguished Student
Jazz It Up! 2016
I am so honored to be here tonight. It is such a privilege to belong to this community, a community that supports the arts in such an enthusiastic and unending way. I graduated from Bexley seven years ago, but the teachers and my experiences, especially in music, are still guiding me to this day. I am a now a professional violist and an early childhood strings teacher, specializing in violin and viola. Currently, I perform with several orchestras around the Columbus area and teach around 25 children ages five to sixty.
If not for my time in the high school orchestra, I certainly wouldn’t be a violist. It is thanks to Mrs. Crandall that I put down my violin and replaced it with a viola nearly a decade ago. By encouraging me to do so, she gave me a leadership opportunity and a chance for me to grow as a musician. What she didn’t tell me was that I’d spend the rest of my life answering the question “what is a viola?” (for those of you who aren’t an orchestra parent- the viola is basically just a big violin). On the day-to-day, orchestra was about playing together, playing in tune, and accomplishing goals, but Mrs. Crandall showed that orchestra went beyond what was expected in the classroom. More than once, we sat in Severence Hall watching the Cleveland Orchestra perform at the highest caliber. I didn’t appreciate it then, but she provided all of us with the opportunity to listen to one of the top five orchestras in the world play some of history’s greatest music. My senior year, through the work of Mrs. Crandall, and the help of Bexley Music Parents, I stood on stage with the fiddle group Barrage, watching and performing with musicians no more than ten years older than me, doing what they love. Meeting those young musicians who made music their profession and watching them thrive, convinced me that I could find a place in their world. By providing the orchestra with these first-rate experiences, what Mrs. Crandall showed me was significant. She allowed me to see beyond the high school walls and peek into what an exciting future could hold as a professional musician.
While I am a violist, I was also a member of the choral program for all four years of high school. Truth be told, I’d still be a member if I could – Mrs. Blosser, my vocal ensemble dress is still in my closet so just let me know if you ever need me to emergency sub in the alto section. For anyone who attended the concert on Thursday night, there really is no question what a gift Amy Blosser is to the music program. I can’t call her Amy. I’ve tried. But she will always be Mrs. Blosser, my inspirational teacher. I don’t think I’ve told her this but she was one of the reasons I realized I wanted to teach. Every single rehearsal was filled with laughter – every single one. Yes, choir is about singing – solfege, pitch, rhythm – all imperative – but Mrs. Blosser showed us all that choir is more importantly about joy, music is about joy. The delight she has as she stands in front of her singers, filled with pride at their accomplishments, watching them make music is infectious. I knew two things leaving high school – music brought me joy and I wanted to bring that joy to others, just like Mrs. Blosser. I try to teach like she does – I want my students to have high standards, to know what it means to be great, to have discipline, focus, creativity and consistency. But more than that, I want them to love what they do, to know that music creates opportunities like traveling to foreign cities where the only shared language is music, that music is important, that the skills they use will help them outside the classroom, and that I am honored they call me their teacher. Mrs. Blosser was an example of all of this every day for the four years that I sang for her, showing me the gift that is teaching music – the gift of creating joy.
Between orchestra and choir, I performed in numerous OMEA solo and ensemble contests, ACDA regional and national honor choirs, four musicals, trips to Chicago (twice), Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Poland, Austria, and Hungary. None of this would have been possible without the support of not only my wonderful parents but of all the parents in the Bexley music community. It’s with the support of Bexley Music Parents that all music students have opportunities like mine – to learn, make powerful music, and create joy. Thank you, thank you for all that you do – donating time, funds, support and encouragement. My parents moved to Bexley because of the strong music program, and I’m sure they’re not alone.
Seven years sounds like a long time, but I think back on high school like it was yesterday. To be honest, I’m just starting out my career. I have hopes and dreams of creating a world where every child knows the joy of music (shameless plug: I just ordered 500 business cards so if you are an orchestra parent feel free to find me later). But in all seriousness, what the Bexley music program did for me was show me that it can be done, music does matter and people are listening.