Interim choir teacher to fill big shoes
Mrs. Mary-Lynn Rhodes is the interim choir teacher while Mrs. Argine Safari completes her duties as the New Jersey Teacher of the Year.
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On the first day of teaching in a school in Ghana, Mrs. Mary-Lynn Rhodes was greeted by the choir students singing the traditional “Hallelujah” Chorus. Years later, Rhodes is now the new choir teacher at Pascack Valley High School, where the same song is performed annually at the Winter Concert
Rhodes is the replacement teacher for Mrs. Argine Safari while she is on temporary leave for six months to fulfill her duties as the New Jersey Teacher of the Year.
Coming into this position was a nerve wracking experience for Rhodes.
“This is a teacher of the year’s program. It was terrifying but also kind of the reason why I picked it,” Rhodes said. “When else would I have an opportunity to work with a Teacher of the Year’s students, or with the Teacher of the Year? Even though it was intimidating it seemed like something I couldn’t say no to.”
Before officially taking over the position, Rhodes observed Safari teach her classes for several weeks.
“Everyone here, even outside of the music department, has been so welcoming,” Rhodes said. “PV is a really welcoming school.”
Rhodes has noticed that the choir students have a passion for music and contain an understanding of music’s role in their everyday lives.
“Every group that I’ve ever performed in has always been better when people are passionate about the work,” Rhodes said.
Amy Santo, a choir student and PV junior, believes that Rhodes has fit right into the class.
“Mrs. Rhodes has adapted to our school environment in the best way possible,” Santo said. “I’m looking forward to the following months with her directing us.”
Rhodes’s main goal while teaching is to make sure that the senior class ends their four years of music education successfully. In addition, she wants to avoid the freshman, sophomores, and juniors having any gaps in their knowledge while Safari is gone.
“It seems like this school is almost like a family,” Rhodes said. “I’m really excited to be a guest in this house.”
Rhodes, who grew up in Rochester New York, discovered her love of music early on.
“My big brother was into music,” Rhodes said. “And in fifth grade the high school choir came down to the high school and I was starstruck. From sixth grade on I did every show, choir, and band event that I could do.”
Rhodes attended Ithaca College where she continued to perform. However, while in graduate school at the University of Colorado Boulder, her musical education began to deviate from a typical path. Rhodes started exploring ethnomusicology, which is the study of music from non-Western cultures.
She became involved with non-Western performing groups including a Balinese Gamelan and an African ensemble. During college, Rhodes traveled to a high school in Accra, the capital of Ghana, to compare the teaching styles of Western education with an African school.
“What I found is that it’s strangely similar,” Rhodes said.
She expected to hear more traditional music during her three month stay. However, she found that she had to leave the city and travel to smaller communities to find traditional music.
Later, when her husband was getting his masters in Indiana, Rhodes also participated in an African Gumboot ensemble and a Zimbabwe Marimba Band, where Rhodes played the marimba.
Rhodes and her family moved to the area last year from Minnesota. She has a 5-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. Rhodes’s main instrument is her voice, however she also plays the french horn and some piano. Outside of music, Rhodes devotes her time to health and wellness and frequently goes on hikes and practices yoga.