by Cheryl Senn
Sharing her passion for singing and for seeing kids being given the stage, are the top reasons Fairmont’s new singing teacher, Heather Layne, gives for why she decided to teach a singing class called Sing It, once a week at Fairmont Elementary School in Sanger.
Layne was able to see 11 of her Fairmont students, along with four private students, take the stage recently when they were invited to perform at the 2012 Big Fresno Fair on the Pavilion Stage.
“I have a passion to see kids that want to sing, that have a passion to sing, to have the opportunity to have the stage. Somebody gave me the stage once upon a time when I really wasn’t ready, but that’s what it took to get me ready to do what I do today,” said Layne, who is now a professional singer/songwriter whose songs are played on country music radio stations. Layne is also a private vocal teacher.
Layne was a little nervous during the Fresno Fair performance because it was a large audience the students were performing for. “This is a big chance,” continued Layne. “These opportunities don’t come every day.”
The Fairmont students who performed were Zaylynn Mangrum, Hallei Branum, Gianna DiBello, Jenna Cabello, Tsugejua Vang, Dominik Morales, Ellie Knight, Natalie Mogan, Lacey Stefano, Michayla Weber and Adriana Huerta.
Branum has performed before but still felt nervous and excited before she got on stage to sing. Stefano said she had sung karaoke before in front of an audience, but never for a large audience like the one at the fair. Mogan has sung with a choir but has never performed solo so was also nervous. “My nerves go on and off,” said Mogan.
The Fresno Fair performances included a variety of music genres. Some of the songs performed were “Hurt,” a Christina Aguilera song, sung by Mangrum, “Safe and Sound,” a song by Taylor Swift, sung by Cabello and “I Don’t Want This Night To End,” a song by Luke Bryan, sung by Vang. Layne’s private vocal students who performed were Gracie Lassley, Kacie Madsen, Jasmine Ballinger and Mia Daniels.
Sing It student’s families also attended the fair performance. Mangrum’s mom, Timna, is very happy her daughter is in Layne’s class. “It enhanced the talent I didn’t know she had.”
Fairmont principal Jared Savage attended the Fresno Fair performance and cheered with the audience during the performances. “I’m so proud, so proud, so proud of them. It takes courage to get up on stage like this,” said Savage. “Heather has sparked something in them.”
Layne volunteers her time every Tuesday morning to teach singing to 40 students. She has 15 students from the fourth and fifth grade and 25 students from the seventh and eighth grades. Layne said she teaches the students the same lessons that she teaches her private vocal students. “But it’s a little more cutting edge. More hip. It’s not going to be traditional choir songs. For instance, our opening song to our concert, this fall, is where all the kids will be singing Old Time Rock n Roll.”
The upcoming concert’s theme will include blues, ballads, country and classic rock musical genres. Layne said the students will pick songs to perform that their parents will like. “Because that’s what a professional singer does. They don’t sing songs that they want to sing, they sing songs that their audience is gonna enjoy.” The concert will be a fundraising event to benefit the class and Fairmont school.
The idea to have a singing class on the Fairmont school campus came last spring when Layne was asked by Savage to work with the singers for last year’s promotion ceremony. Layne said she worked with three girls for three weeks and it went well, then Layne noticed that there wasn’t a choir/singing class offered to Fairmont students. Savage and Layne worked out the details so the class could begin this current school year.
Layne stated that Fairmont students have a lot of talent. “There’s been some surprising talent, which doesn’t surprise me, because I was one of those that was hidden. Like I never got a lead part in anything growing up. I’m a professional singer now.”
Layne is looking for kids that are shy and are afraid to sing but are very talented. “Like, Jenna, is a good example. Her mother probably knows that she is, but those types don’t always want the stage and want up front, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not, you know, very talented.”
The Sing It students are described as blooming flowers by Layne and she loves what she is seeing. “I think there is a lot of talent here at Fairmont and there is a lot of enthusiasm about singing. They’re very very excited about it.”
During the class sessions, everyone’s gifts are appreciated. Each student is excited about sharing their voice and their message. “And when they are performing a song, one of my rules is no laughing, only encouragement in this class,” continued Layne. “We are not going to tear down and criticize we’re going to build up. And we take it seriously in this class. We listen to the lyrics and we appreciate their expression through song.”
Layne believes singing is a great outlet for students. “I think that if kids had an outlet, on a regular basis, we would see less suicide. We would see less cutting. We would see less drug use and alcohol.”
Teaching the singing class, Layne believes, enhances Layne’s own musical performances as well. “I always say, for me, personally, I’m a better performer when I’m teaching and I’m a better teacher when I’m performing. So, for me, it’s a balance between my career and giving back to my community. I just love to give to others. I love to give back what was given to me.”
Watch KRL for more Sanger related articles by Cheryl!