New choir teacher Angela Mitchell hits high note
November 6, 2016
Last year, after 28 years of directing the Stillwater choir, Erik Christiansen retired. His absence raised the question of who will take his place? There’s no doubt that thought had been given to this question before, and there were many people eager and hopeful that they could receive the responsibility of directing the Stillwater choir.
Angela Mitchell, the Varsity Men’s choir teacher at the high school took the job. Her history of conducting at the junior high, as well as the high school along with her reputation of strong teaching in the school district properly qualified her to conduct the top choir at the high school. She studied at Bemidji State and got her Masters in Arts and Music Education at St. Thomas University. Going from learning to teaching seventh graders to seniors, Mitchell has seen a lot.
Christiansen worked as conductor of the Concert Choir as well as the auditioned Vagabonds group for many years, and he was really the one to built up the music program at Stillwater to what it is today. When he announced his retirement, it was something that had been seen coming up for the past few years but still had an effect on the choir and Mrs. Mitchell.
This opportunity to teach the choir because of the retirement of Doc was one that Mitchell was ready to take on, and this was how she felt about Doc retiring, “It wasn’t as much of a surprise as it was that it just felt different. Because we had talked about this before but when his final decision was made, it seemed different than just talking about it because it was really happening,” Mitchell said.
Just like what made Christiansen a great director, certain characteristics of teaching and strengths make Mitchell the right fit to take his place. Even though it is early on in the year, these strengths have been identified and acknowledged by students in her class.
Senior Emma Germundson is both a second-year member of the concert choir, as well as a member of The Vagabonds. Some characteristics of Mitchell’s teaching that she has specifically noticed is, “She is very outgoing, and does a good job connecting with the students. She teaches in more of a music theory orient, meaning we learn a lot more about the music we sing.”
“A distinct style” is a description that a student of Christiansen would categorize his teaching as, and it is a style that will certainly be missed, but with Mitchell now conducting the choir her new style will be imposed upon the students. Every teacher has unique ways that they choose to go about teaching something, and students who have had Christiansen and now have Mitchell see the differences between their styles most effectively.
This point of view is shared by many senior members of the choir, but in specific, Emma has noticed some differences between the teaching styles of Christiansen and Mitchell. “We get more music theory assignments this year from Mrs. Mitchell, while last year the focus was more on the deeper meaning of the music that was sung and on top of that some of Doc’s life stories.”
Their teaching styles are different, but there are some specific aspects of teaching that Mitchell sees in herself, that she brings to the table this year to teach the Choir. She said, “I have a quick ear. I recognize that choirs need to sing in tune, and I try to push my choir to strive for that. I also think that it is vital that everyone knows what they are doing.”
This combination of strengths due to experience with her job, as well as high expectations for her choirs, has led Mitchell to success in the past and will lead her to success in the future. It is a big responsibility to take on the music program at Stillwater which has been grown for many years, but Mitchell is well qualified and motivated to take on the challenge.