Monday, November 12, 2018

Choral Director Tammy Benton is So Much Fun!!

Tammy and Me in Her "Workshop"

On a recent visit to Texas, I visited Tammy Benton, choral director extraordinaire at Midway Middle School...probably the most FUN person I've ever met in the entire world. Tammy can find fun or create her own in every situation imaginable. Everyone has a great time around Tammy, and......she LOVES her job!  As her husband told me, "You have created a monster." Her time commitment to her job is truly amazing...hours, and hours, and hours...daily.

Tammy makes us all feel younger, more energized, and we join in her fun times. In my secondary methods class at Baylor University, trust me, I only thought I was in control. The "Spirit of Tammy" spread quickly throughout the classroom, and pretty soon, I had lots of Tammys (of course she was the ring-leader). I was hanging on by my fingernails. I provided mere suggestions...they "took the class." As a person who wanted to be in control of her classroom, this was a "stretch" for me, but I really got used to it over the semester, and truly enjoyed it.

I love this photo of Tammy. It reminds me of the day I was visiting a school to  supervise her in student teaching, and she was trying desparately to get the students to sing an "Ooo" vowel correctly, so Tammy came up with a word that provided a marvelous "Ooo" vowel for the students to emulate. HOWEVER, I heard her say, "Give me a wonderful, round "Ooo" vowel....just like the "Ooo" in "Coors." that moment, I choked...and thought, "I did not just hear that. I think I heard that, but I am wrong. I did not just hear that." I immediately began thinking of other places where I might enjoy working. Luckily, Tammy caught herself, saying, "Oops...that's not a good one"...then she pulled another "Ooo" word from her vocabulary. Lucky us. Gayle Box, the supervising teacher, smiled, we got on with it. My BP was elevated only 40 points by then.

Tammy and Me - Creative Angle, Huh? This photo says it all...

Tammy is a fantastic choral director for any group, but it is my opinion that her strength is in teaching middle school boys. Did you hear me? Middle School Boys! People run and hide from middle school boys in the choral profession. They don't want to deal with them, but Tammy loves them...totally loves them! And...because they know she loves them....they flock to her in multitudes, wanting to sing in her choir....and they sing...beautifully. Tammy had a great foundation for loving these boys and understanding their "boyishness." Her husband Gary was an All-American baseball player, a baseball coach (now AD) for decades, and she has been around guys, guys, guys. She also has a son, so she knows the mentality of every age...she has lived it! The boys in her choir don't try to "pull" anything. She's "been there, done that," and she knows what's going on at the moment and coming next. I think she has 140 or so of them in the program. They are everywhere, in droves, and the high school choral directors love her for it, I'm sure. She takes them all sorts of places....they perform at National and Regional ACDA Conventions, TMEA Conventions, the White House, baseball games (National Anthem)....this is not a group of students afraid to perform! They live for it! And...their parents are just fine with all the opportunities their children experience in choral music. WOW!!!

Me, Tammy, and Gary

Thankfully, Tammy has some help these days from an assistant (Zack Owens) and a marvelous student teacher from Baylor (Heather Boswell). They are both "in there" with Tammy, working with all of her students (and please know her girls' choirs are wonderful and huge as well), trying to teach young singers the fundamentals of choral music, so that they are always singing. They all do a wonderful job...working together.

Heather, Zack, Tammy, Me

At this point, you need to know that Tammy is a fabulous person, always looking beyond herself to others who might benefit from a kind word, and caring gesture, and total goodness. While I was there, she also took it upon herself to jump through the processes to see that Earlene Rentz Online Publications was added to the Midway School District's vendor list. Totally unexpected! Thank you!

The "family" of choral music is a fairly small family. In the afternoon, Heather Boswell and I began talking, and we both eventually realized that her middle school choir had been one of the choirs performing in a very special concert I conducted at Hurst United Methodist Church (TX) several years ago (thanks, Greg Shapley)! WOW!! Such a small, small world. Heather remembered the piece they sang (The Turtle Dove), and we both had "a moment" remembering a very special evening. All good...all good.

Tammy has "been there" in my best and worst moments of life. When I walked into my husband's memorial service in 2017, I looked over, and saw the most beautiful bouquet of white roses imaginable. Tammy and Gary Benton had sent them to me, and I immediately was filled with the knowledge that I was not alone and was being uplifted by precioius friends near and far. It was a moving experience for me. I was strengthened to continue through that tough hour of saying "farewell." the way...a little explanation as to how I was able to visit Tammy in her school a couple of weeks ago... another friend who had scheduled fun times for us in Waco fell ill in the worst way for 3-4 days, with a very contagious virus. When I called Tammy, she said, "You can't stay in that! I'm coming to get you!" Okay....that's a true friend (and no...I never got ill with the "stuff," but we had a plan to quarantine me, should that have happened)). Someone who puts my well-being and wellness ahead of her own and that of her household, is definitely someone who borders on sainthood (Okay...maybe a "stretch"...but it is still true).

I just love Tammy and Gary Benton. They have created an incredible partnership in their lives and with their son Taylor (I just received a "thank you" card from him today for a little gift). There are good and right things going on in that family, and amidst every facet of their lives, Tammy never loses sight of this one fact: Life is to be enjoyed with others! And...I have never seen anyone in my entire life who jumps in, makes it happen, and spreads the joy more than my friend and colleague Tammy Benton. 

Tammy, I am so proud of you and the marvelous professional you have become. The person you have become is equally impressive as well. You are an inspiration to all of us, and I wish you only the most tremendous things in life. You deserve them, Dear Heart, because you have created them.

I'm still hanging on by my fingernails!!

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