Beverly Parler-Rice lights up when she talks about how music has touched the children she’s taught over more than three decades.
Those children include three Elloree Elementary School fifth-graders who will be singing with the South Carolina Elementary Honor Choir this year.
Parler-Rice is the school’s K-8 general music/choral teacher and also serves as the fine arts coordinator in Orangeburg Consolidated School District 3.
She has spent 29 of her 33 years teaching music at Elloree Elementary, where students Xzavier Rivera, 11; Alisia Sheppard, 11, and Brent Snell Jr., 10, have been selected to participate in the statewide honor choir for the second time this year.
The students will perform at 10 a.m. today at First Baptist Church in Columbia as part of the 2018 S.C. Music Educators Association Professional Development Conference.
“I had five students last year. You can have up to six. So I sent four auditions in this year and three out of four made it,” Parler-Rice said.
This marks the educator’s 20th year as a member of the honor choir committee.
She’s proud that some of her students were selected to participate. About 600 students from across the state competed for the roughly 260 spots on the choir.
“When you get to the concert and hear those kids sing real choral music, singing parts, I don’t know the words for it. I know the parents feel real proud that elementary kids can actually perform those kind of vocal pieces that you would think only a high school or a college choir could do,” Parler-Rice said.
Rivera, Sheppard and Snell are part of Parler-Rice’s fifth-grade general music class.
Snell was excited to be selected to perform with the honor choir.
“Working with Ms. Rice is fun. She likes to jive me sometimes, but I think it is good working with Ms. Rice and being on the choir a second time,” Snell said.
The 10-year-old, whose father is a member of the Gospel Legends quartet, said he likes to sing gospel, too.
“Music is my thing. Music just puts words and songs into my ears and I just dance to it,” Snell said. He wants to do a lot of things beyond singing, including playing the drums, football and basketball.
Rivera said, “I like singing mostly and to be a part of this choir makes me feel like I’m famous. Music helps me focus and when I get sad or mad or am in the shower, I just sing.”
“I want to be a singer — a big-time singer — and my back-up would be becoming a preacher,” he said.
Rivera said Parler-Rice makes the process of learning music fun.
“Ms. Rice is funny. She’s not mean unless you act up,” Rivera said.
Sheppard said she likes “mostly all” types of music and also appreciates the humor that Parler-Rice puts into her teaching. She also likes sharing her talents as part of the honor choir.
“I like to sing. That’s all I like. It’s what I can do, a talent of mine. It helps me calm down when I’m like really upset with my sister, or when I’m thinking about something,” she said. She wants to be a singer and a liturgical dancer later in life.
Antonio Vivaldi’s “Et Exultavit” and Neil Ginsburg’s “I Believe in the Sun” are among the songs that the students had to learn in preparation for their performance.
Parler-Rice said that much time is spent practicing the songs, but Snell, Sheppard and Rivera all love music and are good students.
“They love singing. They would have to love it to be able to spend time learning the kind of music that they have to learn. My kids normally have ether the soprano line or alto line. This year I have second soprano line. So that’s kind of more difficult because they’re singing that harmony, and that note is crucial,” Parler-Rice said.
The veteran educator loves children and is now listening to the voices of kindergarteners to see where they are musically.
“I have the Quaver Music program and it encourages singing, socialization and movement. It’s just everything in one. Because of the way they’re being brought up with all this technology around them, it’s fast enough to keep their attention because ordinarily I wouldn’t be fast enough,” she said, laughing.
Teaching will always be her passion.
“I love being with children, and I love to see children grow academically. I think if I taught math, I would still be as enthusiastic. I don’t think the subject matter would make a difference,” she said.
Article originally published by Dionne Gleaton for The Times and Democrat; February 16, 2018