A line of women facing a piano and wearing glittery red-white-and-blue top hats giggled and whispered to one another, acting not unlike high school students, until their director patiently hushed the 12 singers and told them to take it from the top.

The piano player launched into a boogie-woogie song and the small choir began to sing.

They sang rollicking verses about a bugle boy drafted into the army. They swayed to the piano music, stomped their feet and mimicked bugle playing.

But the ensemble is no afterschool glee club. Its members are all music teachers in Bozeman's public schools. And they are preparing for their first-ever faculty concert Friday, Jan.14 in the Willson Auditorium.

"While our teachers have consistently been all about showing off the kids, we have many teachers who are quite accomplished in their own right," said Renee Westlake, the school district's music supervisor.

Humbly hidden in music rooms across Bozeman are teachers who moonlight in the Bozeman Symphony and Bozeman Symphonic Choir, play with the Montana State University Cello and Horn Ensemble and rock with the local band Poco Loco.

Catherine Savery, choral teacher at Bozeman High School and Sacajawea Middle School, helped spearhead the show. She's only been teaching in Bozeman for two years, but at her first staff meetings with all the music teachers, she recognized the vast talent surrounding her.

And Savery knows talent. Before she married Matthew Savery, Bozeman Symphony conductor, and moved to Montana, she was pursuing a solo career in opera.

"Music is a funny business. You don't get a lot back as a solo performer. It can get very lonely," she said.

That loneliness eventually led her to teaching, which she said is a profession of sharing and community, rather than personal advancement and solidarity.

It is also a profession that, for many teachers, involves passing their passion for music on to students.

Debbi Biegel, for example, is celebrating her 30th year of teaching music at Hawthorne Elementary School.

"I still love it. I'm as passionate about teaching as ever," Beigel said.

But Beigel also admitted she's a bit nervous about turning the spotlight around and performing for her students and the community.

The production will feature all 26 music teachers in the Bozeman school system, Westlake said. The program will include instrumental jazz combos, African drumming songs, Broadway musical numbers, opera, gospel, ragtime and more.

Joy Strizich, the general music teacher at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, said her students are excited and eager for the show on Friday.

"I had a second-grader in tears because they are going to be out of town for the concert," she said.

The mother of three young children, she said she learned the lyrics to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" around the breakfast table with her kids. She has practiced so many times, she said, that her kindergartener has learned almost every word to the challenging song.

Hannah Stiff can be reached at hstiff@dailychronicle.com.



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