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Home News-Telegram News Choir Teacher Beth Crutcher: Quality singing and musicianship are her goals

Choir Teacher Beth Crutcher: Quality singing and musicianship are her goals

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Walking into Beth Crutcher’s office at Sulphur Springs High School is a refreshing experience. The Grand Prairie native exudes a positive, confident air. She’s in her fifth year of teaching, but this is her first semester at SSHS.

    You’d never know it.
    “Ms. Crutcher has really fit in perfectly with what we are doing department-wide,” said SSHS Fine Arts Director Charles McCauley.
    Crutcher was inspired to become a teacher because she had some excellent role models.
    “I always had really great music teachers,” she said. “My choir director in high school really pushed me. I think she did it knowingly.”
    Crutcher came from a single-parent home and said she probably could have been considered an “at risk” kid.
    “I didn’t have a lot of money,” she noted. “I never knew my dad, but I didn’t feel neglected. On paper, I looked very at risk.”
    The 26-year-old alto believes her choir teacher saw something in her and “took that and ran with it. She really opened my world to the kind of music I could sing and do.” Her teacher presented challenges and gave her responsibilities, which helped the young singer mature.
    After graduating high school in 2005, Crutcher attended college at Illinois Wesleyan, where she majored in music education.
    “I didn’t want to perform for a living,” she explained. “I?didn’t want to have to live out of a suitcase all the time and I didn’t want my degree to be a hobby.”
    Her first job out of college was teaching in a “really tiny” school district in Illinois, where she was the Kindergarten through 12th grade vocal/music teacher.
    “After my third year, I couldn’t do it anymore,” she said. “There were times when I would leave the school at midnight and have to be back at 7 in the morning.”
    She secured a job in the Bloomington, Ill., school district but there was a $3 million deficit, and since she was the “brand spanking new” teacher in the district, she was cut.
    “It was hard not to take that personally because I felt like I was doing a good job,” she remembered.
    Crutcher had a decision to make, so she and her fiance, Bryan Cole, a mid-level science and social studies teacher, sat down and looked at their options.
    “We could stay in Illinois and be concerned every year that I could not have a job, or we could go back to Texas, where I knew I would have a job because the economy is growing and they care about the arts,” she said.
    They decided on Texas. She saw the SSHS opening online and sent her information to McCauley.
    “We had a phone interview,”?she said. “Then, I had a second interview during a swing through Texas to see my mom, who lives in Dallas, and my sister, who lives in Longview.”
    Although she had another interview lined up in Illinois, she said all signs indicated they needed to move. She does not regret the decision.    
    “I feel good about this place and these people,” she confessed. “I feel like this is a place where we can lay down some roots and stay for a long time.
    The couple has found a “nice little house” on a quiet street. Cole is substituting in the district and they have just acquired a puppy.
    Having Crutcher here on a long-term basis suits McCauley just fine.
    “I can’t wait to see what she does with our high school choral program,” he said.
    Crutcher, who also teaches music history, has big plans for her students – plans that include exposure to a variety of musical styles and improved musicianship.
    “I think students benefit most when a choir program has a varied repertoire,” she explained. “They hear all the pop pieces on the radio, but I think they need classical, too. On the flip side of that, if they only do classical, they are going to be bored out of their minds.”
    Variety will be on the menu during “This Peaceful Night,” their  annual Christmas concert on Monday, Dec. 9, beginning at 7:30 at First Baptist Church in Sulphur Springs.
    Look for a little bit of everything on the program, including a performance by Garet Holdren, Sulphur Springs’ Strings Program instructor, on the cello.
    “We’re singing this piece called ‘Under Winter Moon,’”?Crutcher noted. “It’s about snow and winter. Garet will be joining us for that one.”
    They will also perform “Sing for Peace,” which utilizes hand chimes.
    “At the end, they’re singing one word, ‘peace,’ in all kinds of languages,” she explained. “These kind of songs are the reason people come to concerts. We’re coming together to sing about Christmas and peace. If you sing it effectively, that’s why people come.”
    Crutcher’s students had the chance to experience the special energy flow between performers and an audience at their fall concert.
    “We sang, ‘Precious Lord,’” she said. “It was an acappella four-part piece. I told them this is going to be the song that connects you with the audience. When I put my hands down, there might not be clapping, but it’s not because it’s not beautiful. It’s because the audience doesn’t want that moment to end.”
    It played out just as she promised.
    “You could see it on their faces. Oh ... oh, yeah,” she remembered. “It was a cool moment for them to experience.”
    After the holidays, Crutcher and her kids will focus on upcoming UIL?competitions.
    “We have a long way to go with sight reading, but we are working on that,” she confessed.
    In order to grow the programs she teaches, Crutcher uses every resource she can. By the end of the school year, she hopes to have a “mostly paperless classroom.”
    “I love technology in the classroom and try to use it,” she explained. “We recently watched a documentary on Mozart and their exit ticket was to tell me how Mozart’s father influenced his music and did they agree or disagree with how Leopold pushed his son to be a star.”
    She puts up videos to their Facebook page (facecbook.com/sulphurspringshighschoolchoir). She also lets students access their cell phones during class.
    “They can record themselves singing and email the files to me,” she said. “I assess them.”
    She also records students during class.
    “It will be really cool to look back at them after the concert and say, ‘Kids, this is where we came from,’” she noted. “In three years, I would love to be able to show them how much better they sight read and how much more advanced they are in technique.”
    Crutcher believes that a good choir member just loves to sing – and a good choir knows it’s going to be a struggle to get better.
    “A good choir supports one another,” she explained. “They know that this is hard, but they are going to do it together and we will be better musicians and better friends because we went through it together.”
    While she builds the choir program, Crutcher also hopes her students grow their talent. Sometimes, she gives the kids a piece of music and says, “Let’s see what happens.”
    “It’s fun,” she said. “They’ll always bomb the same spot and I tell them, ‘Man, that was bad. But I’m so glad because if it were perfect the first time, what would I have to teach you?’”
    Crutcher says failing together helps build a sense of community because the students get to laugh and pick themselves back up. She also says by having fine arts students for more than one year, she can build a relationship with them as they improve their skills.     
    “Quality singing and musicianship are really my goals here,” she said.   




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