After four decades, she's retiring as choral instructor in Crookston School District.
First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?
I grew up in Twin Valley and graduated from there in 1972. I am the second of five children of Allan and Norma Halverson. We were all named with B’s, Bridget, Belinda, Bradley, Blaid and Babette. Mom used to sign the Christmas cards with Al & Norm and the 5 B’s! The B’s continued with the first two granddaughters being named BreAnne and Britt and three great-grandchildren named Brooklyn, BreElla and Braden! The dogs in the family have been named Bee, Beauty, Buck, Blackie, and Buster!
My dad owned the butcher shop in Twin Valley for 35 years. Mom stayed home with us until we got older, then she started working in the shop with dad, wrapping meat and doing the bookwork. All of us learned how to work at the shop as we would go there after school to help them clean up at the end of the day.
I managed to finish my teaching degree at Concordia College in Moorhead in 3 ½ years, graduating in December of 1975. My very first teaching job was in East Grand Forks. There was a temporary elementary music opening in East Grand Forks for a maternity leave starting in February of ’76, I applied and was hired. When the music opening came up in Crookston that fall, I got the job, beating out one of my fellow music grads because of my 3 ½ months experience in EGF. My first position in Crookston included teaching K-5 music at Carman, Eugene Field, and Lincoln elementary schools.
In January of 1978 I married Roger Fjeld. He worked as the head chef and manager at the Pembina Lounge in Mahnomen. With me teaching in Crookston, we decided to live in Fertile because it was the half-way point for both of us to commute. I continued to teach in Crookston until the birth of our daughter in 1982 when I resigned so that I could stay home with our children. Jacob and BreAnne are currently 38 & 36 years old. Jacob gave us our only grandchild, BreElla Rose, who is 9 years old.
When you started out teaching music to elementary school students in Crookston around four decades ago, did you envision the possibility that, other than one stint elsewhere, you’d eventually retire as the choral instructor in Crookston after all these years? Did you think you’d have more career stops?
I never dreamt that I’d be teaching 40 years in Crookston. My expectation was that I’d probably remain a stay at home mom. However, we had just bought our first home in the summer of 1986 when I got a phone call from Ray Dusek asking me if I would be interested in a part time elementary music position at HES. The timing was perfect, Jacob was going into Kindergarten and BreAnne was 3 ½ years old and the job was just teaching music in the afternoons. I taught music with Jim Kent, Dave Bina and Val Buchmeier at Highland for many years. Later, due to budget cuts and because of my seniority and minor in business, I ended up bumping the computer teacher and taught computers for a few years at the Jr. High and at HES.
After having taught twenty years and seeing how fast time went, and my husband’s health issues, I figured there was a good chance that I could end up teaching another 20 years. So I continued my education through a cohort that met in Grand Forks and I graduated with a Master of Arts Degree from the University of St. Thomas in 1998. When Bob Yanish retired as CHS Choral Director in 2001, I was increased to full time and assigned the choirs at CHS as well as the computer classes. My teaching assignment has gone full circle with me being back at WES teaching the Kindergarten and 1st graders again along with the Jr. High, Concert Choir and Pop Choirs at CHS.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I can get teary-eyed from something as simple as a sappy TV commercial or a thank-you speech at an awards ceremony. We at the Times seem to have a lot of photos of you with tears in your eyes. Is it safe to say you wear your heart on your sleeve? Would you take it as a compliment if someone said that of you?
Yes, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I tear up whether I’m sad, happy, or frustrated. Tears come very easily for me and have been coming more frequently lately as I think about retiring. I still have a Kleenex box from the graduating class of 2004, they signed it and gave it to me the night of their graduation!
In the hundreds of choir concerts, from little kids to high school students, that you’ve directed over the decades, do you have any specific memories, stories or anecdotes you’d like to share? Any particularly funny or poignant moments that stay with you?
My dad would chuckle about the 3rd grade boy that I embarrassed at a music program they attended at Lincoln Elementary School. The child was so excited as he’d been assigned the job of giving me a bouquet of flowers after the program. Without thinking, I reached down and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He was devastated and went back to his spot with a big pout on his face, needless to say, I never did that again!
The fire alarm went off at the Cathedral during a beautiful vocal duet at one of our Spring Concerts. We started moving out of the church, but then it stopped, we sat down and the girls resumed their duet.
My Pop Choir has been singing at Digi Key’s annual employee Christmas dinners for over ten years now. They always give a little tech talk to the students and give prizes for correct answers afterwards. They asked if the students could name all Santa’s Reindeer, nobody got them all, so I listed them all off and they gave me a t-shirt.
I have many wonderful memories of the five music trips to Florida. The looks on the faces of the students that have never flown before, their clapping for the stewardesses after giving instructions and the successful take offs and landings. Flying on a chartered plane full of high school students is definitely different than flying on commercial flights!
Having the choir sing over the Disney orchestral soundtrack and then seeing it put to animation was such a wonderful experience for the students and for me!
On the verge of retiring, are you confident that the fine arts are on solid ground in Crookston, and in schools and education in general?
There is no doubt that the Crookston community supports the fine arts in our public schools. We have been so fortunate to have PFAB, the Pirate Fine Arts Boosters, the Kiwanis, and Hugo’s give hundreds of thousands of dollars to the fine arts programs over the years. I have such a passion for music and it saddens me very much to see the music program slowly being cut back in our schools. The high school music program offerings have been cut back 50% at CHS with all three ensembles meeting the same hour. We currently have very talented and capable music teachers on staff, but the uncertainty of the future schedule is concerning to me.
It’s probably unfair to ask you to pick one, so, if possible, could you name the five students over your entire career that you believe possessed the best voice or the most singing talent as your pupils?
There have been many wonderful singers over my 40 years of teaching! I feel guilty to even try to list some of them. I remember the first time I heard Brent Thorson’s voice when he moved to Crookston in 5th grade! He remembers it too because I asked him to sing for the class! Beth Plante performed a solo in the elementary school program and later became a music teacher. Katie Westrom was in choir, band and orchestra and became a music teacher. Naomi Fagerlund had such a beautiful soprano voice! All the MN All-State choir students during my leadership including Josh Ogaard, Alex Kiel, Noah Fagerlund, Kailey Mykleseth and Zachary Sanders all had great voices. Zach Lutz, Brian Sanchez and the whole Edlund family were all wonderful singers as well and that list leaves out many!
Do you think, as a teacher, you need to be a good and/or talented singer in order to be a choral instructor? Please explain.
I don’t think you have to be the best singer, but I do think it’s important that you can model or demonstrate the sound you want the students to produce.
Let’s say you’re stranded on a deserted island. You have an endless supply of food and water and you have shelter, but you don’t know if you’re ever going to be rescued. Somehow, you have a TV and stereo that work. For all of your time there, you can only listen to three songs and watch three movies. What three songs and three movies would you have with you on the island?
This was the hardest question for me to answer. Being a music teacher there are just too many songs that I love!
This is what I decided on:
Somewhere Over the Rainbow sung by Judy Garland
Ave Maria by Franz Schubert sung by Barbra Streisand
The King of Love My Shepherd Is sung by the Concordia College Concert Choir
The Sound of Music
West Side Story
A Walk to Remember
People tend to overuse the word “hero” these days, so I’m not asking you to list any of your personal heroes. But could you mention three people that you look up to or particularly admire, and explain why?
My grandma, my dad, and my choir director from high school.
I admired their work ethic, talents, determination and positive attitude.
They treated all people with respect.
They were honest and forthright and encouraged me to do my best.
Please describe yourself in ten words or less…