Willette Johnson says she has a song in her heart, and over the years, she has found thousands of students who feel the same way.
Thursday night, 75 David Cox Elementary students joined about 60 alumni in a final night of music for the fifth-grade school chorus that Johnson founded 20 years ago.
Johnson will retire from teaching next year, and Thursdays show at University City United Methodist Church was her last as director of the choir she has headed as a labor of love.
I worried at times that directing the chorus might get in the way of my classroom work, says Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher. But it has always worked out well.
Ive gotten a lot of help from my family and from the staff here.
The alumni that joined this years chorus for Thursday nights performance, themed Reunited, ranged from early teens to nearly 30 in age. Some of her singers from the mid-1990s have children of their own. Mary Katharine Grant, a third-grade teacher at David Cox Elementary, is a former member of Johnsons chorus.
Everywhere I lived, I started a chorus, says Johnson, whose 40 years as a teacher included stints in several other states. My family loves to sing.
Her husband and three sons provide support with arrangements and sets. Fellow teacher Sharon Cowart is a big help, Johnson says.
I couldnt do it without them, but I guess Ive also put a lot of extra time into this, she says.
The David Cox chorus has performed at Disney World and for countless other schools and civic groups.
Johnson says the chorus has helped some troubled students.
They know that their grades and behavior must remain good in order for them to stay in chorus, she says.
Johnson says the saddest days were when she had to make cuts after auditions. She adds that walking away from the chorus will leave a void in her life.
But I have a lot of wonderful memories, a lot to remember, she says.
The music, she adds, stays with you.
Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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