As I entered the room, I couldn't help but stop and stare at my surroundings. The room itself was ordinary with diminutive stadium seating and a piano in the corner. The trophies and plaques screamed integrity and determination. At that moment that I realized this woman's calling.
"Music is a lifelong means of enjoyment and expression," explains Libby Walden, 52, of Jackson. Since the age of 3, she has held a passion for music. It was the passion along with the guidance of an influential choir director that led her to become a music educator. "What would be more fun than singing all the time?" she adds.
When Walden was younger, she remembers her choir class: "It was the highlight of my day." She also loved to watch the "Lawrence Welk Show," a late=night television program that featured dancers, musicians and singers. Walden appreciates all types of music but loves listening to gospel, Aretha Franklin, Christian contemporary and Tina Turner.
After graduating from Murrah High School in 1970, she attended Mississippi State University, where she met her husband and pursued a teaching degree. Walden then went out and shared her passion for music with others.
Walden reminisces about her teaching days at then Witten Junior High and Forest Hill High School: "I try to introduce these kids to other kinds of music, not just the music that's playing on the radio."
Two years ago, Walden began teaching music at St. Andrews in Ridgeland. "I like the size of the school; it's better for my stage of life," she says. She likes for her students to sing songs that are uplifting, positive and encouraging. Before her choir attends a tournament, she likes them to "look into what they are singing; internalize the notes and text of the song."
Walden believes in her students and their capability to reach their highest potential. "It's OK if we don't take home a superior rating, as long as they do their best and sing their hearts out," she says, smiling.
After taking great delight in conversing with me about her 31 years of teaching music, she tells me what makes her job so wonderful: "Sharing what I love most with my students is fabulous. Sometimes I will come across teaching a student again and that is fun because I get to watch them grow and learn."
And with one last giggle, she adds, "I love what I do, I just keep passing it on."