By Jason A. Tiller
Ludwig Van Beethoven, one of the greatest composers of all time, once said, “to play a wrong note is insignificant, but to play without passion is inexcusable.” It is that passion that can be found in Lena Dunn Elementary’s music teacher Cheryl Price.
“I’ve been teaching for 32 years, all here in Washington,” Price said. “It’s a wonderful dream come true. I never thought would get out of school and get a job like this and be able to work with these boys and girls.”
Price teaches K-6 music to anywhere between 400 to 600 students a year. In 32 years, that means should could have taught over 19,000 children and according to her it’s something that she’s honored and humbled to be able to do.
“I’m proud of the students that I teach,” said Price. “Many of them will go on into show choir and other musical groups. A lot of them have won awards for their performances. But I really only look at my program as a feeder program for when students move on to Mr. (Scott) Griffith’s program. ”
But that doesn’t mean that she is any less qualified. Price studied music at Oakland City University for her undergraduate program, where her emphasis was in both vocal and instrumental music as a saxophone and piano player. She studied at Indiana State University for her masters.
Aside from her duties as music teacher, Price is also the director of the Wings program, in which about 32 students learn a musical production and perform it for the community every year.
“Wings started not long after I got here,” said Price. “We’ve been doing it now for well over 25 years. A lot of the students in this program are the ones who go on to do music as their career.”
Wings has garnered a lot of attention over the years according to Price. She said that one of the Wings productions went on to become the lead at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville Tenn.
“It’s really cool to see those things,” Price said.
Besides directing Wings, Price also takes care of most of the behind the scenes work which consumes a lot of her time.
“It takes a while,” Price said. “We have to go through the music and make sure all of the keys match up, sometimes we’ll have to arrange a couple pieces ourselves. It’s definitely not an overnight process.”
Price also said she and those that help her have to work on several other projects as well to pull off a successful Wings program: flyers, publicity, getting t-shirts and pants for the students (which includes getting sizes for all 32 of them), taking back the excess garb, choreography, getting props, back drops and much more. On top of all that, she said that she does all of this on a shoestring budget.
Price also said that she has a lot of support from the administration.
“The school board has always been very supportive,” Price said. “That stems from Dr. Hatton being a big fan and having a lot of love for the arts.”
Another big aspect of Wings and Price’s music program is the other skills that the students learn.
“This program teaches life skills: working with others, finishing tasks and responsibility,” Price said. “So many schools compete against each other in sports, but here we have two schools coming together to work with one another.”
Those who work with price say that her passion for the music and her students is evident.
“It’s a blast to work with such great kids here for this,” Fifth grade student teacher and choreography director Kyle Gregory said. “Mrs. Price instills in them a drive to do better and always improve from the last run. She loves music and puts everything she’s got into it so that she can help the kids get the most out of it.”
“We’ve done a lot of these together,” Price’s husband Art said. “Our children were even in it. I believe she thrives on doing this. It keeps her young, even though there’s so much pressure. I’m really proud of her and I think our reward is that we get to see these young people go on into high school, college and even professional music.”
The 2012 Wings program titled “Legends of Rock” will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Lena Dunn Elementary Cafetorium. Price said that she would like to invite the community out to see the show and witness the culmination of the hard work that her students have put in.