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Maple Grove Music Teacher Channels Passion into Opportunity to Play with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Maple Grove Music Teacher Channels Passion into Opportunity to Play with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Janet RiceAs a music teacher at Maple Grove Elementary, Janet Rice educates and musically accompanies children in a typical, elementary-sized classroom. On October 7, 2022 at 7 p.m., she will perform in a much bigger room, in front of many more people, on a much larger and more famous stage: Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis, Mo. 

Rice, along with other music educators from the St. Louis area, will be performing with members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) at the storied venue thanks to the program EXTRA CREDIT On Stage at Powell. She will be playing the celesta, an instrument much like a piano, in the keyboard family. The main difference between the two instruments is that hammers hit metal sound bars on the celesta, while hammers hit strings on the piano. Once you hear the instruments, the difference in sound between the two is evident. 

“Some say it sounds like a music box,” Rice said. “Students will know this sound from ‘Hedwig's Theme’ in the Harry Potter movies.”

Rice, along with her music educator colleagues, and the Symphony will be playing Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition", orchestrated by Ravel. 

Rice said, “It is a beautiful impressionistic work, and brings to mind pictures of walking through an art museum, looking at the many works of art, telling stories only through music.” 

Rice said that the Symphony and music educators only get to rehearse the piece together once just a few hours before the concert, but Rice is not worried. 

“This piece is a standard part of the orchestra's repertoire, so I am sure we are all in good hands,” she said. 

According to SLSO, the EXTRA CREDIT on Stage at Powell program “honors the important work of school music educators with a biennial concert.” The program began in 2017, and this year, Rice submitted her entry to take advantage of the opportunity.. 

“The St Louis Symphony Orchestra always has amazing programs on their website for music education,” Rice said. “Since all music teachers read music, they based this opportunity upon how well one could express their love for music education and why it is important to schools.  We had to write an essay about music education and why it is so important.” 

Rice said that the essay flowed easily and freely, which is no surprise for someone with so much passion for music. It is a passion she has held all her life; one that some would say she was destined to follow.

“My dad was a great singer, and I know I received the musical ear for tone from him. (My) mother got me started on piano, and would not let me quit,” Rice said. 

Although she considers voice and piano to be her primary instruments, Rice also plays several other instruments.

“I taught myself to play accordion, ukulele, and a bit of guitar. I thank my husband, a drummer, and master in percussion, on how to play and handle the variety of percussion instruments we have here.”

Rice music classRice focused on musical theater early in her career, citing a love of performing and telling a powerful story through music. She then moved on to music composition, and earned a Master’s degree in the subject from Webster University. Before coming to teach at the Northwest School District, Rice taught in private music schools for seven years. She is also a licensed music therapist, and even certified by Yamaha to teach music using their brand of instruments. 

Rice said, “What I love about this is that this work brings in everything I ever wanted to do with music, from performance to music creativity in music, to mission-based work with music therapy, all of this comes into play as a classroom music teacher.”  

Rice said that she sees the role that music education plays in the lives of her students, as well as the role it plays in her own life. It’s a role that she enjoys and does not take lightly. 

“I see music giving a sense of courage and expression in many students who need that positive spotlight. They are given opportunities to shine in performance, with a loving and listening audience, who then applaud your work. It is that extra inner self-confidence that I love to see grow in each student. The communication of the music between students does this, unites everyone, and gives a special inner strength to want to do that again.” She added, “I know that I am part of the mission to bring music and all its expressive capabilities to students. Students need to know that singing and playing music is not only a wonderful brain builder, but also a means of connecting your voice and your communication with others.”