Weekend Assignment #59: We’ve all had teachers who have made a difference in our lives. Tell us about one of yours. It can be a teacher from any level of education, from kindergarten to graduate school.
Many teachers had positive influences on my life. In my school career, I thrived. I loved school and it showed in the majority of my grades.
I would say the one who had the most profound influence on who I am today would be Stewart Morgan. Stew as we all called him was my choral instructor from 7th grade all throughout high school.Stew was a man who’s passion was music, and, I believe exposing kids to the vastness of music genres considering the selections he taught us during the six years that I was a student of his. Like most involved in the Arts, he was a temperamental man who was known for his explosive rants during class and rehearsals. I try to imagine parents today putting up with a teacher like him for their children. I wonder…..Funny thing is he taught several generations at West Allegheny. Many of the kids in chorus with me had parents who also took music with him when they were in high school. My step-dad was one of his students. Every Christmas, he would invite former Senior Chorus students up on the stage to sing the Hallelujah Chorus with the current Senior Chorus. The stage was always crowded. It was reminiscent of Mr. Holland’s Opus. Our parents knew of his mercurial temper. They also knew of the rumors of his sexuality. I believe his ability and skill as a teacher mattered much more to everyone, as it should. He remained a favorite teacher throughout his career at West A. So much so that there is now a Stewart Morgan Auditorium at West Allegheny High School.
Stew’s exacting demands on those who took his optional class taught us all discipline and order in our lives. No, I am not the most organized person, but I developed a reliability, drive and initiative that is now second nature to me and is evident in virtually everything I do. I remember stubbornly resolving to do my very best in his class to prove that no music he selected was too complicated for us. I still exhibit that same resolve when I seek out to accomplish something that might seem to be impossible or too difficult.
It’s no secret these days as schools across the country cut out musical arts’ programs that music enhances the development of the part of the brain that is used for critical thinking skills. That part of my brain got quite the workout those seven years under Stew’s direction. I am thankful for that as I use my much needed critical thinking skills in the NICU setting. It gets used a lot as I just deal with the challenges of raising five children in such interesting times.
As I said, Stew opened a virtually endless world of music to explore through those years. I learned and performed Gregorian chants, spirituals, Broadway classics, Ziegfeld era classics, hits of the day, and years gone by, classical selections including always, his favorite, Johann Sebastian Bach. As school officials began to take steps to remove any Judeo-Christian influences from public schools while I was in high school, Stew thumbed his nose at the administration and taught us classic hymns which we performed regularly.
We definitely learned much more than rhythm, breath control, tempo and all that is music. We learned much about World War II, especially the European theater as Stew was under the leadership of General Patton. We learned everything one could possibly know about Johann Sebastian Bach. Not many 16-17 year olds will celebrate Johann’s birthday (March 21, 1685), but we did. We learned many little factoids which serve me well today as I yell out jeopardy questions.
All in all, Stew inspired me to never stop learning, always do your very best, keep your ear open to all kinds of music and to never stop learning.
Be alert! We need more lerts! Stewart Morgan
Extra Credit: Tell us your second favorite subject in school.
A close third behind the two tied for first place (History and English) was Life Science. It has come in handy in this life for me.