Oh look! A shiny thing: Remembering JCC's Tim McConnell
A lesser teacher than Tim McConnell would probably have put me in the back row and told me to lip-sync.
It’s not that I can’t sing alone. It’s just that I probably shouldn’t when other human beings are within earshot.
Unfortunately, I love to sing, and anyone who’s walked in on me while I’m alone in the office has probably heard something that sounds like a lovesick, chain-smoking stray cat with a severe sinus infection and a penchant for Taylor Swift.
Believe it or not, though, I used to be even worse, and while I’ve had a few very patient choir directors over the years — presumably they all had a very high tolerance for ear pain — the one I remember working with the most was Jackson County Central’s Tim McConnell, who died last week after complications from surgery.
Despite how I sound, I love singing, and Mr. McConnell knew it. I paid attention in choir class, dutifully brought my music home with me, picked out piano harmonies to try to remember them, and learned how to pronounce words in French, Latin and worst of all, English, with its awful, pinched vowels. I listened to the altos around me and tried to do what they were doing as best I could, and I worked on my sight-reading technique along with the rest of the class.
A lesser teacher than Mr. McConnell would probably have put me in the back row and told me to lip-sync, or even just found some reason (any reason) to get me out of their choir, but Mr. McConnell did not do that.
Instead, when the time came for individual lessons, he patiently steered me through the songs the choir was working on.
When it was time for contests, he found a very dramatic song in Italian for me to sing as a solo, in front of judges, which was terrifying, and coached me as best he could.
Mr. McConnell also never told me I could not audition for a solo in a song or a part in the school musical, which he co-directed when I was in high school. In fact, I got to be part of two musicals.
While I didn’t become a great singer under his watch, I did improve — a lot. Mr. McConnell helped me become a solid member of a chorus, able to blend well with fellow singers for a beautiful sound, through teamwork.
Tim McConnell educated many talented, hard-working singers over the years, and I have no doubt he also coached many equally talented, hard-working gymnasts. But he’ll also be well-remembered by the rest of us, who aren’t so talented, because he made sure there was room for us, too.
His patience encouraged me enough to continue in choir for three semesters at Augsburg College, and even now, when I go to church, either in person or via live stream, I sing along with the hymns as part of the congregation. When my nephews sing a Christmas tune, I join in.
And I still love singing.