BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
NORTH SALT LAKE – Students at Orchard Elementary School have at least one thing in common with members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:
Their rehearsals are conducted, in part, by Ryan Murphy.
Murphy, the assistant director for the Tabernacle Choir, is also co-director, with his wife, Jennifer Murphy, of the Orchard Concert Choir Singers.
The two meet with students before school twice a week to prepare a Christmas concert and then, again for a spring performance.
But the students have even more in common with members from the larger choir, said Ryan Murphy.
“These kids have such a dedication and a commitment,” he said. “They really want to be excellent.”
Murphy is quick to defer to his wife, who co-leads the rehearsals and leads the performances while he’s at the piano.
The two met in a concert choir class under the direction of Mac Wilberg at BYU, one of several choir romances that resulted in marriages, according to Jennifer.
Jennifer got a dual degree in elementary education and music education, and believes strongly in the value of music education at school.
“It reaches the kids that sometimes don’t get reached,” she said. “It gives them a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride. It helps build confidence.”
The two have a child at Orchard, plus one older and two younger.
In their two years leading the choir, participation has tripled, according to Kristi Nelson, principal.
“They’re just amazing,” she said of the 80 students who now make up the choir.
Their performance included a song in French, another in Latin, a spiritual and a Hanukkah melody.
Bob Campbell, a percussionist with the Orchestra at Temple Square, added a little sparkle to the performance in front of their peers. For the performance in front or their parents, other musicians from the orchestra accompanied their songs.
For each of the numbers, Ryan Murphy, accompanied on the piano, barely looking at the music, adding grandiose flourishes in the interludes.
Before and after school programs run by parent volunteers add a great deal to the education students receive, said Nelson.
“We look to our volunteers to round out a great educational experience for our students,” she said.
Jennifer Ryan said she is passionate about the value of music education.
“It uses both hemispheres of the brain in ways that other things can’t,” she said. “From what I’ve seen, it helps learning in every aspect.”
She said students have told her the rest of their day goes better after their morning rehearsals.
Olivia Hawkins, one student, said singing under the leadership of the parent team is “really cool.”
She has learned that there are different types of singing and the importance of pronouncing consonants and more.
And when she goes to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform, she enjoys the performance even more than most.
“It’s awesome that that’s my conductor,” she said. “I get to see him in action.”