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Key Change Everyone--Choir Students Now Conducted By FCHS Alum

Michelle Manning's Cantus Choir students gather around the tech courtyard to take some silly snaps. (Courtesy Photo)

By Emma Duncan--Eagle Editor

Do Re Mi Fa So La Do.

Something’s missing in this common vocal warm up routine. Ti. More specifically “T" for teacher.

Last summer FCHS found itself in the position of needing a choir teacher for over 100 music students on short notice.

With just three days left before the beginning of another academic year, school officials turned to a familiar face: alumni Michelle Manning.

“I became the interim choir teacher by word of mouth,” she stated. “My mentor, Kathy Carter, who was the choir teacher at FCHS for several years, recommended me to the school board for this position. I was a student here (2011-2015) and was a very active and advanced student in choir. Mrs. Carter knew that I had a passion for music education, so when the school board reached out to her, she was able to tell them about me!”

Manning followed in her teacher’s footsteps, pursuing music after graduating high school.

“I’m a Choral Music Education major at Liberty University, and knew that I wanted to teach high school choir since I was a senior in high school,” Manning recollected.

Her degree has further revealed that music education is the path Manning was supposed to take, and said she feels lucky to come full circle and return to where she discovered her love for singing.

“This position is exactly what I'm going to school for! During my time at Liberty, I've had some experience with visiting schools and interning with their choir program, so I have had some experience before this position,” Manning explained.

However, fitting with the age-old school stereotype, Manning’s first few days apparently did not go as planned.

“I missed the first three days of school, so by the time the first Monday rolled around most students were honestly just excited to have some sort of permanent teacher,” she shared. “Both classes played three days worth of musical scattergories and they were very tired of it.”

Since settling in, Manning’s classes now seem to be in perfect harmony.

“I love my classes! I currently teach Music Theory (a passion of mine) and that is a small class where we are able to have some open discussions and get through work quickly. I also have a choir class at the end of the day, and we've been varying what we do in class. That one is a very lively class so we try to do lots of activities to stay busy,” she described.

Many of Manning’s students share her enthusiasm not only about the class, but also about their new teacher.

"I love the way Ms. Manning teaches. I am definitely loving her class so far," Sophomore Grace Senkfor said. "She includes everyone and she’s a great teacher. She’s super nice and funny, and makes me comfortable to be me in her class. She accepts everyone for who they are and she doesn’t judge people if they are different. I love singing and she is helping me expand my singing abilities and she’s helping me be more confident in my voice."

Some are still struggling to adjust with this transition, but are trying to prioritize the positives.

“Ms. Manning is very strict but she wants us to be our best,” Junior Alexis Camp commented.

Cantus Choir students learning from Michelle Manning display their binders full of lyrics and notes. (Courtesy Photo)

Manning aims to win all her students over through several upcoming opportunities.

“My choir class this semester is working very hard towards a Christmas concert,” she said. “The choir students from this semester and next semester are also working towards Virginia Honors Choir auditions and Virginia All-District Choir auditions. These are audition based choirs that are privileges for students to audition and be chosen to participate in. Virginia All-State Choir takes place in the spring and I have students excited for that as well! If COVID manages to be less of a threat, I would love to be able to potentially plan field trips for students as well!”

Senkfor is looking forward to these opportunities so much so that she's been inspired to make some changes.

"I love her so much I switched my elective next semester for another choir class with her. She’s one of the best teachers I’ve had," she added.

There's a chance that a new choir teacher will replace Manning next semester, but she already feels that she could, and would like to, become the long term conductor.

“It is my dream to teach choir at FCHS. I would love to work towards having a permanent position, should everything work out and it's meant to be,” she admitted. “Everyone can sing, everyone has a voice, but I love showing people how to use it.”

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