Beloved chorus teacher retires

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Barbara Holbert thanks the audience and high school chorus after being presented with flowers at the May 1 band and choral concert. STAFF PHOTO/PAT FARNELLI

Elk Lake’s senior high concert Wednesday night marked a milestone: it was the final high school concert for chorus director Barbara Holbert, after 33 years of conducting vocal groups and choirs, choosing songs for concert programs, and teaching music classes.

In the process, students learn to read music and harmonize, with some music history and theory added.
Last Thursday, Holbert conducted her last junior high chorus concert, and Wednesday will be the last Fifth and Sixth Grade chorus concert of Holbert’s career.

Holbert, while looking forward to retirement, said that she will miss the students and directing the chorus and other groups.

Last year, she had back surgery, and had to take a medical leave of absence for several months.
This year, she has been able to work the entire school year and even accompany students to district and regional competitions.

While waiting for the chorus girls to change from their gowns into their Sweet Adelines outfits, band director Dave Cooper took the opportunity to make a few comments about Holbert, both fond and facetious.

He claimed that she was a contemporary of several classical composers, and a pen-pal of Beethoven. Several students presented her with a bouquet and other gifts and remembrances, and a reception was held in her honor in the hall after the concert.

“She loves music, and is good at engaging and keeping the interest of the kids in music,” Cooper said. “She had a talent for choosing songs that they enjoyed singing,” from popular Broadway shows or movies or just silly holiday songs.

Holbert said she tried to plan her programs with selections with solos that suited the voices of particular students, and to encourage them to try singing alone or in a duet or trio.

She began at Elk Lake, her first teaching position in 1979 after graduating from Mansfield University.
Back then, Elk Lake did its holiday and spring concerts for the district all in one night from 7-11 p.m., she said.

“When I came here, Mrs. (Irene) Mosher had been here for at least as many years as I have, and her name was on everything, but I never met her,” she said.

Her fellow music teachers included Patty Sost and Cathy Rezyckowski, then Brian Mallery, then Michelle Oakes, and now Cooper and Kathleen McDonald.

“I’m going to miss the kids, and the teaching part of it, but I’m not going to miss the paperwork or the curricular mapping,” she said.

Holbert plans to continue being involved with music at the Evangelical Free Church in Montrose, and spending time with her grown children, Jamie and Elizabeth, as well as grandchildren.