Greg Barnard appreciates Ms Jean Johnson, a teacher at Waterville-Elysian in Waterville, MN

My father was a coach, so I grew up around athletics and was comfortable on the field and court. However, singing in public was way outside of my comfort zone. But somehow, Ms. Jean Johnson convinced me and some fellow athletes to join the school choir. Ms. Johnson was patient, kind, and had a way to get the best from all of us. Over time, Jean transformed our bunch into a pretty darn good high school choir, which did well in competitions. My senior year, Mr. Royal Myers, another talented teacher and drama coach, was bold enough to direct the school's very first musical melodrama. In small schools, students are involved in multiple activities, often in parallel. For many of us, that meant football or volleyball practice after school and play practice after dinner. Ms. Johnson was the musical director and pianist. She and Mr. Myers spent countless late hours, for many weeks working with a large cast. Somehow, I was cast as the "hero" in this melodrama, battling a dear friend who was cast as the villain. The hero had to sing a duet with the "damsel in distress." This included a short solo that terrified me beyond words. Mr. Myers was supportive and used his humor to minimize the pressure I felt, but it was Ms. Johnson, who tirelessly worked with me. She recognized the song was a bit outside my vocal range, so she transposed it down a key or two. She worked on my presentation, vocals, and confidence to the point where at least my knees were not visibly shaking during the four packed-house performances. I'm sure my singing was barely tolerable, and I'm glad there was no affordable video technology to record it back in the mid-70's. I'll always remember Ms. Johnson and be thankful for how she took someone with no public singing experience, and limited singing ability and somehow turned that brief time in my life into a long-lasting (and very melodramatic) memory.

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