GRANVILLE — An audition for high school Select Choir shaped Crystal Everdyke’s life and created a philosophy that has carried her through 30 years of teaching.
“When I was in high school, my high school chorus teacher told me that my voice would never fill a concert hall,” Everdyke said. “And he kind of gave up on me. And I try not to do that with any of the kids.”
Everdyke, who is retiring at the end of this school year, has spent 30 years teaching band at Granville Jr./Sr. High School, creating a welcoming culture to the hundreds of students she teaches.
In the hallway outside the band room, a large banner reads, “We are not nerds, we are band geeks.” She hangs a new sign yearly and all the band students sign it.
“When you approach it that way, that’s when you get the best surprises, because it’s that kid that you might be tempted to say, ‘Hmm, I don’t know how this is going to go,’ and all of a sudden, that’s your most improved player of the year,” she said. “Just something clicked because you didn’t give up on them.”
Everdyke never gave up on herself and graduated from SUNY Fredonia, where she performed a graduate vocal recital.
“They asked if they could keep the recording on file to use,” she said last week, sitting in the band room.
The retiring teacher wants one more chance to say goodbye to the band students she has taught for the past 30 years. She is planning an Alumni Band Weekend from March 9 to 11 and is inviting any former band students to pick up their instruments again for one more weekend as a band geek. The event coincides with the school’s Spirit Week.
She already has 31 former students signed up and would like to double that number.
“We actually have people from my very first year here signed up all the way through last year’s graduates,” she smiled.
Over the past 30 years, she has taught junior band, senior band, jazz ensemble, marching band, concert band, pep band, pit band, music theory, music history, music in our lives and general music.
“The band room’s always open,” said Everdyke, who stands at the door and welcomes her students, chatting with them about their geometry tests and wrestling matches.
Coordinating about 20 performances a year, Everdyke spends a lot of time with her students – evenings, weekends, trips, festivals, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day.
“This job is unique in that I have these kids for six years,” she explained. “I see them in seventh grade the second day of school, and the last official thing they do as students is play at graduation. I have them from beginning to literally the last few minutes of their school career.”
They have taken trips to Hershey Park, been stranded on the side of the Northway and Thruway with flat tires and been sidelined with dead car batteries — not to mention that one time a student got his tongue stuck to the bus window on one particularly chilly night.
“We spend a lot of time together,” she admitted. “On a school bus. I won’t miss that. I’ll miss the kids but not the bus.”
An unintentional celebrity in town, Everdyke plans to live a quieter life, she said as a student practiced the trumpet in a nearby room.
“She’s an amazing teacher, she really is,” said 11th-grader Ryan Schwenger, who lamented the idea of his senior year in band without Everdyke.
The two chatted about the strange taste of the new clarinet reeds.
“She actually makes all of this fun,” he said. “She directly involves us. She always keeps it light and funny. She’s always cracking jokes and stuff like that.”
Former band student Sara Collins, who now teaches special education social studies at Granville, played alto saxophone as Everdyke’s student.
“I have been crying on her shoulder for more than 20 years,” Collins said. “What am I going to do now? She is just such a cornerstone here.”
Collins is already signed up to be part of the Alumni Band Weekend.
Everdyke can’t wait to show some of the returning students the new band suite built 15 years ago to accommodate the growing band population.
To register for the Alumni Band Weekend, go to the school’s website at www.granvillecsd.org and locate the Spotlight section.
In her retirement, Everdyke plans to sleep past dawn and read the newspaper on the day that it comes out. But she plans to return to the school to cheer on her students at their sporting events and concerts. She enjoys seeing her former students succeed in music, a testament to their own talent.
“I didn’t give them the talent,” said the modest Everdyke. “I just helped them have fun with it.”