Music has always been a big part of who Todd Monsell is.
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Music has always been a big part of who Todd Monsell is. Below is our Q&A with Todd, who is Director of Music, Lower School Music Teacher, LS Choir Director, and President-Elect, SC Music Educators' Association, Elementary Division.
1) What led you to become a music teacher? And what do you enjoy most about teaching music?
As the son of a singer and a drummer, music has always been a huge part of who I am. After a few years of teaching ESL, both home and abroad, I went back to school so I could combine my love of music with my love of teaching. I haven't looked back! As far as what I love about teaching music, I love the chance to allow students to express themselves in ways they can't in any other discipline. I love the sense of pride and accomplishment I see in my students' eyes after a successful performance. I love having the chance to inspire students through music the same way I was inspired by my favorite music teachers.
Having students participate in state, regional, and national honor choirs during my time at Porter-Gaud has been very rewarding. For our kids to have the chance to be part of these very special choirs, to meet other students from across the country who love to sing as much as they do, to work with some of the best directors in the business, and to sing in some truly amazing venues--Salt Lake City's Mormon Tabernacle and Minneapolis's Orchestra Hall come to mind--is a phenomenal experience. This year I had six students take part in the SC Elementary Honor Choir in Columbia and five headed to Minneapolis for the American Choir Directors Association's National Honor Choir. I couldn't be prouder of them!
2) What does a day in the life of Todd Monsell look like here?
It's a busy day indeed! It starts with getting my two junior Cyclones, Cameron (grade 1) and Julian (grade 3) ready for their school day. Some days I'll be out on the LS carpool loop with my fellow special area teachers, opening car doors. Then it's into the classroom in the Fine Arts Building for a day of teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes, trying to pack as much fun and inspiration as I can into each class period. My classes are very hands-on, and we are often singing, dancing, and/or playing instruments together. Each of my three grades has a focus instrument, with 3rd graders studying the Irish whistle, 4th graders the ukulele, and 5th graders the African drums. One of my favorite times of day is when I get to rehearse with the LS Choir, and if it's right before a performance I may have 100 students in my classroom singing in harmony--quite exhilarating! After school, chances are I'll be rehearsing with the Treblemakers, out on the intramural field, or getting ready for rehearsals at the church where I'm Director of Music--St. John's Lutheran downtown. Never a dull moment!
3) Why did you select Jungle Book for LS musical? and why is the musical such an important and valuable experience in a student's LS experience?
I noticed that students really enjoyed playing the animal parts in The Lion King last year and thought I'd repeat that experience with The Jungle Book and its many animals. The story was made fresh again recently with Director John Favreau's 2016 movie of the same name. If you missed it, Bill Murray is great as Baloo! The musical is one of those LS experiences that I think students really remember. Being in a show together really allows students to bond in ways they can't elsewhere. Middle and Upper school students often wander into my room to find their name on a poster of a show that they were in...perhaps The Best Little Theatre in Town or The Aristocats. For many students, acting in the LS Musical is their first opportunity to really get bitten by the theatre bug, and a lot of students who got their acting start in the LS musical are now shining on the MS and US stages.
4) How else are you involved with music in your life?
As Director of Music and Organist at St. John's Lutheran Church, I am spending a number of hours each week practicing the piano and organ for our weekly services. As a founding member and bass in the Charlestones, a professional male a cappella quartet, I am frequently practicing and performing with the group. As a composer and arranger, I am often working on pieces for the Charlestones, for my church choirs, or for my PG students. I hope to have an original composition published soon.
5) What are the top three songs on the Monsell family play list?
Ooh, so many to choose from. I'd have to say just about anything from the musical Hamilton (I am a proud alum of Hamilton College, so it's great to see our namesake getting his due!) with Leslie Odom Jr's "Wait for It" probably my personal favorite...for my boys it would be the soundtrack from the movie Sing, especially Taron Egerton's performance of "I'm Still Standing," and anything by Ben Folds or Billy Joel!