Choir teacher’s reassignment hits a sour note |

Choir teacher’s reassignment hits a sour note

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen High School students are singing the praises of their choir teacher, but their petition drive isn’t likely to sway the school’s plan to reassign her as the instrumental music instructor next fall, according to one administrator.

Students have been collecting signatures in both the high school and Aspen Middle School with the hope of convincing school district officials to keep Nancy Beyea as their vocal music instructor. She has been instructing both choir and orchestra students, but has been pegged to teach band and orchestra in the middle and high schools, starting next fall.

“I just think that’s a big mistake,” said sophomore Laura Beach, a choir student. “We have improved so much under Ms. Beyea.

“Bottom line, I’ve learned so much from her. She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had,” said Beach, who’s also an orchestra student.

“A lot of students love Ms. Beyea,” added sophomore Tristan Mahaffey. “She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had.”

Mahaffey said he’s collected about 100 signatures from high-schoolers who don’t want to see her pulled from the vocal music program.

Although Mahaffey is an orchestra student, his two younger sisters, currently middle-schoolers, are both choir students under Beyea. They have collected more than 70 signatures on petitions at the middle school, he said.

“I figure if it means so much to my sisters and my friends, I might as well try,” said Mahaffey, explaining his petition drive.

Some students have predicted a mass exodus from the choir program next year. Choir students describe Beyea as a demanding teacher who has raised the bar for choral performance in the district.

“She has brought our choir from singing Disney songs to Italian,” said sophomore choir student Amanda Christian. “She pushed us to our limits. It made me more excited about coming to class.”

Assistant Superintendent Joanne Irwig said she’s well aware of the students’ concerns, but expressed doubt that their efforts will alter the district’s plan to hire a new vocal music teacher and assign Beyea to handle band and orchestra instruction. She is qualified to teach both disciplines of instrumental music, Irwig said.

Instrumental music teachers, who must master a wide variety of instruments, are difficult to find, according to Irwig. Vocal music instructors are somewhat easier to recruit.

“We’ve had no luck, frankly, finding an instrumental music teacher for next year,” she said. “It’s just a matter of trying to get people in these slots. I know she’s disappointed.”

Beyea declined to comment on the matter.

The school district lost a band teacher this year when Micah Harford resigned in February amid accusations that he had attended a party at which students were drinking and that he’d accompanied youths to a Hooters restaurant during a field trip.

A substitute teacher filled his post for the remainder of the current school year, but will not be returning next fall, according to Irwig.

The district hopes to recruit a well-qualified vocal music instructor – someone with whom choral students will be pleased, she added.

“If we get a really good vocal music person, I think they’ll be happy,” Irwig said.

“We can hope,” Christian said.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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