Tell us a little about yourself. Where were your born, raised and where do you live now? How long have you lived in the area?
“I was born in Milwaukee, and when my dad accepted a job at Aladdin Industries in 1960, we moved to Hermitage Hills and lived there for about eight years. I grew up in a wonderful neighborhood in the Western Hills area in Donelson, and my mom still lives there. My husband and I now live in Inglewood.”
Family? Married? Children?
“My mom was an Avon lady for 50 years, and my dad taught at Father Ryan High School and was one of the first deacons in the Nashville Diocese. My brother, Jim, coaches and teaches in Memphis, and my sister, Suzie, is in administration at Father Ryan High School. My musical husband, Dave, is retired from Kroger and Catholic Charities and enjoys repairing basses and guitars and making our yard look amazing. My two sons live in Nashville. Michael is a Navy veteran and helicopter pilot and Eric, a musician, works at Great Escape and is one of the funniest people I know.”
Where did you graduate high school?
“I graduated from Father Ryan High School in 1975. I felt well prepared for college and made many wonderful friendships there.”
College? Degree? Area of study?
“I stayed here in town and went to George Peabody College for Teachers, which is now part of Vanderbilt University. I studied classical guitar, sang in the Peabody choir and marched as a member of the Vanderbilt flag team. I have a BME bachelor’s degree in music education. I am also a certified Montessori teacher.”
What was your very first job?
“Babysitting and giving guitar lessons were my first ways to make a little money to buy a better guitar. My first job with a paycheck was Opryland, USA. After a few summers of working carts, I became a supervisor at the Ice Cream Parlor. I was a bartender at many of the parties hosted by Roy Acuff. I loved being in that exciting music atmosphere.”
What was your career path?
“I always wanted to be a teacher. My Grandpa Guse was a teacher and superintendent in Wisconsin. Every year, our family would visit, and he would prep me for the next year. I loved to learn, and I realized that there is beautiful bond created when you take the time to teach.
I understand you’ve been the music teacher at Holy Rosary Academy for 21 years. How did this come about?
“I attended Holy Rosary Academy from first through eighth grades, so this has always been a dream of mine. I taught at St. Bernard, St. Joseph, Abintra, Westminster and then Montessori Academy for about 15 years. I wanted a Catholic education for my youngest son, and when I went to the school to visit, principal Peggy Walker told me that the music teacher at Holy Rosary was moving to Michigan. I accepted the position on the spot.”
“There was always a steady stream of Beethoven, Kingston Trio, Les Paul and even Herman’s Hermits coming from my dad’s record collection. Our family would sing in the car all the way to Wisconsin. I played guitar at daily Mass at Holy Rosary starting in seventh grade. Music has not only been a relaxing part of my life, it is a way I can praise God. I feel that every person finds joy in making music, but many people do not know that they even have these talents. It is so much fun to introduce a child to in instrument and then see them gain confidence and mastery with it. I can actually see and hear the children develop before my eyes... and even better, so can they.”
Do you teach all grades?
“Yes, the youngest children are 3 years old, and the oldest are in eighth grade. What a blessing it is for me to be able to see the children for 11 years. Graduation is always tough for me.”
What are some career highlights and biggest career accomplishments thus far at HRA?
“As a teacher at a National Blue Ribbon School, it ss something to boast about, so yes, twice awarded. The ability to celebrate daily Mass with the students and hear them sing on special occasions is a daily highlight for me. Each year, I write a Christmas play for the younger students. It is a joy to see the teachers work with their students and bring this to life. Several years ago, I received the ‘Christ the Teacher’ award in our Diocese.”
What is so special about this Catholic, private school?
“The community of Holy Rosary is amazing. We do reflect our mission statement to ‘support and encourage the development of each child’s unique set of God-given talents by providing a Catholic education grounded in Gospel values and committed to excellence.’
“Mrs. Halliburton is a dynamic leader, and we have great spiritual support from our pastor, Father Dan Steiner. The teachers enjoy their students and do so many creative things with them. The hallways are always full of lovely artwork and projects, and the children are happy to be here.”
Are you Catholic?
“Yes, I have been Catholic all my life. I am grateful that my parents supported Catholic education for our family.”
I’m sure you believe music plays an important role in children’s lives. Why so?
“I love to introduce students to a new song on an instrument. The first few times it is not vey pleasant, but after numerous times, it gets better. To see their faces when we finally make music is a spiritual feeling. They learn to keep practicing and not to give up. They feel the satisfaction of being part of a team, and everyone’s part is important. When we have an awards day, I notice that many of the music students are also the ones who are the math and science leaders. Some students drop by on a break just to play an instrument or learn something new.”
Teaching so long, have you taught any children of your previous students?
“Yes, it is almost like having a grandchild. It makes me happy to know that the parents loved Holy Rosary so much that they are sending their children here.”
Have any of your students emerged in the music industry?
“Yes, several. It gives me tears to watch a video and think this all happened because of the rhythm sticks and the recorder. One former student who was on tour with MercyMe, teaches trumpet and records. My youngest son was also in my music class from third through eighth grades. He has played drums in several bands here in Nashville.”
Do you play an instrument, sing, write or produce?
“I have played guitar since I was 13. I love to sing and write songs for children.”
I understand you and your husband play in a band at Caney Fork restaurant in Donelson. Tell us all about this.
“My husband, Dave, and I are the Meltones, and we have been playing for about 13 years at the Caney Fork Restaurant in Donelson. Our band includes Kathy Kuhn on fiddle and Alan O’Bryant on the banjo. We have had the opportunity to play with many fine Nashville musicians at this gig.”
How has COVID-19 affected your job?
“I had to really expand my technology skills. Music is a difficult subject to teach on Zoom if the students do not have instruments. Fortunately, we are in person at HRA, and I have enough guitars and ukuleles so that every seventh and eighth grader have their own to use.”
Do you belong to any organizations? If so, do any stand out?
“I am most active in Tennessee Right to Life. I think it is important to educate children and adults to protect the unborn and the weakest among us.”
What would be your business advice to someone getting into teaching music? Do you think it’s a good field to pursue?
“Actually, I would encourage all teachers to learn a little something about music. It is such a great tool for learning. I look forward to each music class. There are always adults who wish they would have learned an instrument, and it is never too late. I think there will always be a need for someone to teach music.”
Who is your mentor? Why? Are you a mentee to anyone?
“My fellow teachers are my mentors. I respect their advice, and since we all work with the same children, we are working toward a common goal. I have been in close contact with some of my former students who are now teachers. They have given me tech advice, and I am giving them some ideas from my years of wisdom and experience. I am learning just as much from them.”
If you could spend an evening with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why? What would you ask?
“I would definitely spend time with my dad. He died about seven years ago, and he always had a way of sorting through problems. Then, he would make a joke about it, and we would just laugh. I don’t know that I would ask him anything in particular, but I would like to hear his comments on the world today.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received or given?
“The best advice received is from my husband when he tells me to don’t worry about it. The best advice I’ve given – I like to think that everything I say is good advice.”
“I like to bake sourdough bread and desserts, crochet, work in the yard, read and play guitar.”
Are you a foodie? If so, what is your favorite dish and favorite restaurants?
“Not really. I am a cheese and crackers and an apple for lunch person. I like lots of little snacks throughout the day. I miss Jalisco in Donelson and enjoy Mexican food.”
What would surprise us about you?
“I just received my 5-gallon blood donation pin from the American Red Cross.”
What is the last text you sent?
“I invited my sons to lunch.”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
“I hope I’m doing all the things I am doing now – except I’m retired.”
What would you tell your younger self?
“I would tell myself that every tough time is going to make you stronger and more in tune to the struggles of others.”
Any fur babies?
“Strippedy is our cat. Sugar is the Chihuahua, and Andy is a medium dog. They all get along well.”
What and how are you doing during this pandemic?
“I did much more cooking and straightening the house during the first part of the quarantine. My husband and I enjoyed the time together and learned a few new songs on guitar. We are not big travelers, so this is not too difficult. We missed our two months off from playing music, but we are glad to be back in person now.”
What’s your favorite movie? Book? Or, what are you reading or watching now?
“I like reading ‘Guideposts’ magazine and watching an old episode of ‘The Office.’”
Do you like to travel? If so, what’s the favorite place you’ve visited? Where’s somewhere you’d love to visit when it’s safe?
“I do not really like to travel. I love my home and look forward to having people over again.”
Some answers were edited.