The woman in the sixth row watched the singer.
Her lips moved as if singing the words, voice silent, but eyes encouraging. She felt the song’s joy.
Joyce Hisel is aptly named.
She’s instilled a joy for music in several thousand students and their parents, perhaps because she’s not afraid to channel emotion in song. This moment occurred as soaring, pitch-perfect notes flowed from one of her vocal music students giving it their all at the state music festival on campus at the University of Missouri at Columbia.
“When you help people develop their passion for something they really enjoy, that’s very fulfilling to me,” Hisel told me in a recent chat. “In giving, you receive.”
These are bittersweet weeks for her and current students. Hisel is retiring after 20 years as vocal music teacher at Platte County R-3 High School. Plus she’s directed the annual fall musical stage play. After 29 total years as an educator, she wants some extra time for her husband and son.
I dedicate this column to all teachers who are retiring as this school year comes to an end. I’ve been around enough to know that all schools in our County have outstanding teachers.
Hisel had teachers who inspired her. Extraordinary educators create circles. Students inspired by her example are going to college to become music teachers, beauty growing despite a sometimes harsh world.
“There is nothing like music that touches your heart and your soul,” Hisel said. “For high school kids, they sometimes communicate best with music.”
Bob and Marie Gieseke’s daughter grew up on a farm in the Missouri River bottoms, back when farms were scattered beneath the bluffs in what is now Riverside’s west side. A piano teacher started her musical journey. At Park Hill High School, she sang alto in the choir, played clarinet in the band and participated in sports. Her senior year, she worked up the courage to try a vocal solo in the music festivals. At state, she got a two rating, rather than the one rating that judges award for excellence.