When I heard the news that my first music teacher had died, I thought what most of her thousands of students probably did:
Ta ta ti ti ta ti ti ti ti ta ta
It was a sweet way to teach basic sight-reading. On a huge, poster size flip board were illustrations and simple syllables to help teach the time value of each note, and she was so enthusiastic in teaching us this secret code, her lilting voice just stuck in kids’ minds for generations.
As I thought of her more, I could feel what it was like to be in her classroom, and I haven’t thought about it in so long, but really, I can almost smell it. I remember the day she taught us the word ‘repertoire’ and how she made a bulletin board out of it, stapling names of songs we all knew to it as part of our classroom catalog. It was elevating, taking the common songs from a bunch of kids from what some considered a lesser part of town and linking them with a fancy French word. It made us feel important. She made me feel important.
I remember our music books, hard cover and filled with the patriotic and folk songs that were, back then, like the air we breathed. Everyone had them in common. I remember her neat stacks of drawing paper and how she made me feel special and how her classroom felt like a home away from home.
In fifth grade, we could join chorus, and she had us singing in rounds and harmonies. On one rainy day that I can bring to mind like it was yesterday, one side of the classroom sang ‘Sing Low, Sweet Chariot’ while the other sang ‘All Night, All Day’. We faced each other, up on risers and the two songs hitting each other sounded and felt like magic to me. I couldn’t believe it was possible that we were making something that beautiful, but she could.
When I think of the impact of that one sweet lady on my one life, and then multiply it by literally thousands of children, it brings tears to my eyes. Mrs. Tarchara made a difference by bringing not only music, but worth into the lives of kids every day for a whole career and it’s astounding.
As a music teacher myself, I can only hope to have close to that kind of legacy. Every time I teach something with a bit of a high bar, and my students receive it and it becomes part of them, it has its roots right there in one kind, passionate person’s classroom and what an incredible thing to know how we are made of the people who speak and sing into us when we are young.
May angels lead you in…
Rosalie N. (Turell) Tarchara
July 30, 1938 – November 6, 2016
Stoughton, Massachusetts | Age 78