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Getting Involved

How a Canyons Teacher is Connecting with Students One Song at a Time

In Canyons, students aren’t the only ones who know the apprehension of auditioning for a role or the thrill of a standing ovation.

Teachers like Hillcrest High’s RaNae Dalgleish bring to the classroom first-hand experience as professional artists — in her case, as a member of one of the most prestigious choirs in the world. Having a professional life outside of teaching can be taxing but is also personally fulfilling, as Dalgleish attests in the latest episode of Connect Canyons.

Whether she’s directing Hillcrest’s award-winning choir or traveling overseas with the The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, sharing the love and light of music is a great privilege and her life’s joy.

“It’s that it takes one little thing to connect us all,” Dalgleish says, “especially this time of year, it’s my favorite part of the year.”

Canyons is home to several teaching artists from Corner Canyon High’s Randal Clark, an elite jazz musician, to Wade Abbott, the choir teacher at Indian Hills Middle and another Tabernacle vocalist. Make no mistake, these performers are trained as teachers. They are committed to education. But their work as artists informs their teaching and teaching influences their art.

Dalgleish grew up playing the violin and it wasn’t until she was in college that she realized she could sing. Not long after that she took music lessons and began teaching choir. Fast forward to 2015 and one of Dalgleish’s friends encouraged her to audition for the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. “I wound up auditioning three times before I got in,” Dalgleish says. “I was just so thrilled and honored when I finally made it. It was a year-long process.”

Choir hopefuls have to record themselves singing. Once those hundreds of submissions are screened, there’s a theory test to complete, which lasts three hours. Reaching the interview stage requires scoring 80 percent or more on the test.

Dalgleish was interviewed by the directors of the choir, Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy. Once accepted, new choir members are not immediately given a spot at the Conference Center. You begin choir school for three months, then once you pass with 100 percent attendance, you become a full-fledged member.

But Dalgleish’s adventures were only beginning. During her first full year with the choir, they went on a European tour starting with Germany and ending in France. “In Vienna, we got to perform in the hall that Brahms himself conducted in,” says Dalgleish. “Singing in those spaces that were so magnificent, there aren’t words to describe how that felt.”

Throughout the tour, Dalgleish says audiences showered them with standing ovations, despite their reputation of being discerning patrons with high expectations.

Touring the United States with the choir provided Dalgleish with a different kind of adventure. The choir’s performance in San Francisco still sticks with her. “We sang with the Gay Men’s Chorus and their conductor,” said Dalgleish who becomes emotional as she remembers the concert. “It was pretty stunning. There were about 30 men we sang with and we were hugging and the bridges we connected and formed with them was just one of the highlights of my life.”

Each year, thousands flock to downtown Salt Lake City to watch the annual Christmas Concert with The Tabernacle Choir. This year, Broadway’s Michael Maliakel and Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicol joined the choir.

Dalgleish ended her tenure with the in August after eight years, but says her favorite guest performer was Broadway’s Kristen Chenoweth. “She is just a ball of energy,” says Dalgleish. “Her talent is off the charts for any kind of piece she sings and she was so warm and friendly.”

Dalgleish says she has learned a lot from her time with the choir and works to integrate those lessons into her own classroom. “Watching Mack and Ryan work at the pace at which they had rehearsals and the techniques they used to get that blend, “Dalgleish said, “and the things choirs need to have technically, it changed me.”

Dalgleish pours that experience and passion into performances given by her students over the past 16 years. There is no more decorated performing arts school in Utah than Hillcrest High. During the Winter, members of Hillcrest’s vocal ensemble travel to senior living centers to sing carols and songs for the community, even performing at Temple Square and the state Capitol.

Dalgleish says she enjoys watching her students connect with their community and grow not only as a choir but as individuals.

“I would say never not believe in yourself,” says Dalgleish, “Go out and experience things you didn’t ever think you could do. I’m so grateful I didn’t give up after three times auditioning. I tell my kids, ‘music is a light that can carry people out of those dark places.’”

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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