Over 1,700 students, 23 newspaper photos, 16 program designs, 16 years, one teacher, Anita Edwards. Edwards held a tissue to her eye as she stepped up to the microphone in front of several hundred concert attendees.
“I’m really proud of my students,” she said to those gathered in the Teed Elementary School gym. “They did great.”
Edwards has put on the Teed Elementary School Christmas concert since she began teaching music at Teed Elementary School in 2002. The concert showcases poetry, a vocal piece, a recorder instrument piece and fifth- and sixth-grade student percussion group.
A few stood as “A Christmas of Memories” Christmas concert, the final concert of its kind, ended around 2:15 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15. Next year, fifth- and sixth-grade students won’t be together anymore, as Teed Elementary School will be Teed Middle School, holding sixth- through eighth-grade students.
“It’s very sad because it’s not like we’re moving to a new school, a new building. We’re closing Teed Elementary,” Edwards said. “I always imagined myself possibly retiring here. I never dreamed we’d be closing the school.”
The fifth- and sixth-grade percussion group is one of only two in the state of Idaho, according to Edwards. She said most elementary schools opt for choirs.
“I wanted to do something different,” Edwards said.
In 2003, just over a year into her time at Teed Elementary School, Edwards was at a conference when she saw an elementary school percussion group perform.
“I was like, ‘Wow,’” Edwards said. “I want to do that.”
She ran the idea by her principal at the time, Ken Lilienkamp, who supported the idea.
The percussion group met 7:15-8 a.m., before school, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fifth- and sixth-grade students had to audition to be part of the group, and show, academically speaking, that they could handle the extracurricular activity.
Students showcased musical talent on a variety of instruments, including drums, xylophones, Caribbean steel drums, glockenspiels and bass bars. The first year had about 15 students. The past few years, there have been about 30 students.
The students loved the percussion group, Edwards said, especially those who needed a higher level of music to learn.
“They’re a no-nonsense, dedicated group,” Edwards said.
Edwards said that, likely, the highlight of her career came in 2010 when her fifth- and sixth-grade percussion group applied to and was accepted to perform at a national conference, in Spokane, Washington. This conference was similar to the first conference that Edwards went to where she was inspired to start her own percussion group. The Teed Elementary School fifth- and sixth-grade percussion group was selected out of hundreds of groups, Edwards said.
The fifth- and sixth-grade percussion group has been a part of the annual Teed Elementary School Christmas concert for 14 years. Now that fifth- and sixth-grade students won’t be together anymore once the school changes, the program will likely disband.
Edwards is the last remaining original teacher of Teed Elementary School. She’s not sure where she’s going to go next academic year. She has taught in the Kuna school district her entire career.
The district put out a survey for teachers and staff to fill out expressing their preferences of where they’d like to be and what they’d like to do. After teachers return the forms, then it’s up to the principals and the district to place teachers accordingly.
Edwards said the district is working hard to place teachers and staff where they want to go. For Edwards, that could be a band at Teed Middle School, elementary school music, or administration.
“I have a lot to think about,” she said. “I won’t be completing the survey until after Christmas. I’m really sad it’s over, but as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever.”
This year’s final Christmas concert included classic Christmas pieces like “Santa Claus Rock,” traditional costumes of a Christmas tree, snow man, and, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and a piece of music written by Edwards, “Squishy Squishy Carpet.”
Edwards said she and her husband had new, thicker carpet put in their house during the summer of 2016.
“As we were preparing to have the carpet laid the rhythms starting rolling around in my head,” Edwards said. “I wrote them down and ended up with eight different parts.”
The students gave some input on the drum piece’s performance, including which drums, non-pitch percussion and mallet instruments to use.
“Then we came up with using the sample carpet squares and rhythm sticks as another added part (with speaking parts),” Edwards said. “Some of the sayings and rhythms were, ‘Big spill hurry wipe it up,’ ‘Oh No! Kitty hair,’ and ‘Mud on your shoes again?’”
To prepare for the concert, starting in October, students had to memorize music pieces, songs and poems, practice with their props and costumes, and, of course, rehearse.
To close the performance, Edward’s husband, Travis, put on a slide show of all the programs created over the 16 years, as well as news photos and coverage of past concerts.
Edwards gave a special thank you to her husband and her mother, who has always made the costumes. Edwards also thanked the maintenance department for setting up the gym just right for the students.
Edwards thanked the new school principal, Deb McGrath, and Teed Elementary School teachers for their flexibility with extra rehearsals.
Finally, Edwards is thankful for parent and community support over the 16 years of the Teed Elementary School Christmas Concert.
“That’s a big one for me ... choosing to stay in Kuna,” Edwards said, “because of parent support, community support, classroom teacher support, like extra rehearsals… it’s very helpful to a student to have support like that.”