Ms. Barnes is TUSD Choir Teacher of the Year


Mekayla Phan, Features Editor

Student singers from across South Central Arizona auditioned and participated in the Regional Music Festival that was hosted at Sahuaro. It was the best of the best, and Sahuaro’s choir did very well.
It could all be thanks to our wonderfully talented choir teacher, Mrs. Suzanne Barnes. In only her second year here at Sahuaro, Mrs.Barnes was surprised and honored to receive the Outstanding New Choral Director Award last January.
Due to the change of directors, the choir program had downsized to a few classes. Barnes said that her number one goal is to make it back into a full-sized program – or bring back some of it’s glory.

“She really goes out a long way and lengths for our Choir program,” junior, Lylah Field, says. Lylah Field is in Advanced Choir and was ranked 4th chair at Regionals.
Dedicated and passionate towards music, Barnes has been devoted to teaching for almost over 30 years. “My favorite thing about teaching: the contact with students. Not only with music, but sharing life experiences. And of course my love for music. Hopefully I can inspire that love in students.”

Barnes was always an instrumentalist – she played the piano at age 6, the flute at 12, and was in various groups like the marching and jazz band in high school. One day, a choir teacher, Tom Patrick, saw her playing piano and asked her to join the jazz vocal group. That one instance impacted her life like never before. While studying Pre-Med at the U of A (due to her great interest in medicine and the science field, and her father being a chemist), she found her life “miserable without music.” Remembering that one year with Tom Patrick made her change her major to become a choir teacher.

Her first job was in New Mexico and then she transferred to Texas. She decided to return to Tucson due to her father being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she wanted to help her family (her son is already full-grown). The choral director position was available at Sahuaro and she was ecstatic after having a one year hiatus of teaching.
“[I] love it, love it. The student body is so diverse… I couldn’t be happier,” she says. She also adds in that Sahuaro High is one the best schools she ever taught in, and her Fine Arts colleagues here are amazing.
When asked about what kind of challenge a student might face singing, it is that they are usually so exposed to a certain genre of music. “Over-exposed, if you will. Students often compare to their singing what they hear on the radio [or to their favorite singers]. My job is to undo that, and help them find their own voice… Because voice is a part of the body, they are more critical [towards it] than an instrument,” Barnes states.

However, she doesn’t find it much of a problem in her classes, and it seems they really enjoy singing together. “The students realize that it’s just like a team sport.”