Choir students support grieving instructor


Emotionally and physically exhausted, choir instructor Amy Brown returned to school. She was met by a supportive 2nd hour junior varsity women’s chorus and a hug from each of its members.

A similar experience ensued in 6th hour. She noticed, however, the group of students present was smaller than normal.

As she found a seat amongst the concert choir students, the metal door swung open.

The Madrigals filed in, including senior Blake Ellis with his guitar and senior Angelyn Montanez with her viola. Four soloists stood in front of the piano as senior Chris Bond sat on the bench behind it, resting his fingers on its keys.

“The song is ‘You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban,’” Ellis said. “At the very end of the song, it kind of fades and then there’s this really big key change. Here I’m thinking, we need to have a kind of goosebump moment.”

That’s when the rest of the concert choir rose to their feet, finishing the student-led performance. Students then presented her with a signed poster that read, “We love you Mrs. Brown,” a basket filled with fruit and homemade goods, and a check for $400–all provided by choir students and their families in response to the passing of Brown’s mother.

On Wednesday, Aug. 13, the second day of school, Brown received the news that her mother passed in an RV accident in Montana.

She then took a few days off.

“Everyone knew that they couldn’t just sit around and wait for her to be back,” Montanez said. “They all wanted to do something. So many students came up to me shouting things they wanted to do for her, telling me that they just want to give her something that will express the thanks for all she’s done, and no matter what, they’re a family she can lean on.”

Students began planning a surprise for Brown to show their support.

“When Blake and I decided to do the fundraiser, we needed backup,” Montanez said. “We talked to Alvarez and he gave us passes to go to each choir class for as long as we needed for about two weeks. So before my warmups we would talk to the class and start the donation process.”

In addition to the fundraiser, the choir decided to prepare a song for Brown’s return.

“Obviously we’re in choir. We needed to sing her a song,” Ellis said.  “So through that weekend before she came back, I organized a song. I figured out the piano parts because I can’t read music.  First I taught it to Madrigals, which was really hard to do because I’ve never taught before.  Through this I learned that she does so much you don’t even acknowledge what she’s doing. She does so much and makes it look easy.”

After arranging a song, signing posters, and collecting donations, the 6th hour class presented Brown with her gift on Thursday, Aug. 21.

“It all came together beautifully,” junior Madison Hofer-Holdeman said. “We had so many people crying, not just Mrs. Brown.”

Brown knows what she will do with the $400 she received.

“Half of it will go to the Livingston Stafford Animal Shelter who cared for my mom’s five dogs, who were also in the accident but uninjured, until we were able to take them home,” Brown said. “The other half will go to the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge, Montana, a refuge for wild animals that cannot live in the wild.  It is a wonderful small zoo that my mother served as a volunteer at, planting and donating to support it.  They will be putting up a memorial bench in my mom’s honor.”

Brown’s generosity and compassion inspired the choir students.

“She was the reason for the response she got,” Hofer-Holdeman said. “We all love her.”

Brown thinks her students deserve the credit.

“I have some really special students who are willing to put someone else before themselves,” Brown said. “People always tend to cast teenagers under a negative light. Yet, here are my choir students wanting to do something completely beyond themselves. You know, you never think something good could come out of an event like this. But it did.”