When former Fort Frances High School music teacher John Dutton retired this past spring after a teaching career spanning nearly 30 years, many people were aware the person taking his place would have big shoes to fill.
But Lisa Loney, who has 13 years of music teaching experience in Alberta, is settling in just fine.
“I call [Dutton] an icon,” Loney chuckled as she recalled walking into the high school and being a little daunted when she saw the music wing named after him.
“It’s always difficult to follow someone who has done such a good job . . . but you eventually build it into your own,” she reasoned.
“It’s not going to happen in one day,” she admitted. “You just have to take it one step at a time.”
But with her first month at Fort High now under her belt, Loney believes the job is a good fit for her.
“The kids are what make it,” she stressed. “They are a wonderful, well-mannered group of kids, who are extremely talented on top of it.
“I definitely see some good parenting going on.”
Loney added the teaching staff at the high school also has been helpful and supportive.
“Having worked in the city, people there are more aloof, but everyone here has been really nice,” she remarked.
Loney has a Bachelor of Education with a music major from the University of Lethbridge. She started in Fort McMurray, Alta. but spent most of her music career in Edmonton teaching there.
She also spent several years teaching English.
Although Loney isn’t from Rainy River District, her father lives in Emo and she has many relatives in the area.
Her mother had passed away from cancer several years ago and even before the music teaching job had been posted, she had made the decision to move here to be closer to her father.
“I was just going to supply teach and work my way in,” Loney noted. “So I’m very fortunate to have gotten this job and I’m so thankful.”
And Loney has jumped right in—taking over right where Dutton left off.
She already has the music students selling chocolate-covered almonds for their band trip in the spring of 2011, which will be to somewhere in North America as opposed to Europe.
Plans also are underway for both a Christmas concert (Dec. 15) and a band concert (Dec. 16).
“The kids need some consistency,” Loney noted, stressing she didn’t want to come into the school and change everything.
The senior band continues to rehearse Monday evenings as it has in the past, and there still will be band trips.
“I’m accustomed to doing fine arts tours, going to two or three cities or towns in a multi-talent show,” Loney explained, noting she understands the task of planning and preparing for trip similar to those the senior band has gone on in the past.
“This year is a fundraising year,” she remarked. “I’m just going to truck along, go at my own pace, and offer as much as I can.”
As Dutton also was thoroughly involved in the spring musicals at Fort High, Loney also plans to lend a hand in these productions.
“I have done the music for four different musicals years ago,” she noted, though admitting she doesn’t know much about the acting or stage direction.
“We’ve already been talking about the musical,” she said.
Loney also has added a stage band, also called a jazz band, to the music program that practises before the senior band Monday evenings.
“It makes for a long Monday night, but that’s okay,” she said.
The Christmas concert will feature both the senior band and stage band, along with small ensembles, the choir, and some individual performances.
The following evening will be strictly a band concert.
“There are so many students who are good vocally and need the opportunity to sing, so I want to give them these options, but maybe in a different way,” Loney reasoned.
“[The students] have good attitudes, they’re kind, and we’re having fun,” she enthused. “There is going to be some learning on both sides.
“I hope they can take something from me and I know I will take something from them.”
And Loney plans on sticking around as long as they’ll have her.
“I’m really enjoying it and learning a lot,” she remarked. “It’s all about the kids.”