Stephanie Reece

CHOIR DIRECTOR

Stephanie’s family consists of herself, her husband Joe Palermo, and three children. They all live together in Makanda. Stephanie was born and raised in northern Illinois in Freeport. Even when she was a little girl, she wanted to be a teacher. In fifth grade, she learned to play the violin and started singing in a choir; by high school, she was taking voice lessons and singing in musicals. An influential music teacher encouraged her to combine her love of teaching and music and helped her get a scholarship, so she came to Carbondale and graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor’s in Music Ed. She taught music in elementary school for six years. Stephanie’s personal taste in music is very eclectic, ranging from Beatles to George Jones; from Alanis Morrison to Metallica and more. When she is directing a choir, she prefers to teach “old, church-y” music by Handel, Bach, and other baroque and classical composers. Occasionally, she likes to teach a choir “tribal” (world) music with unusual harmonies, chants, and rhythms. She says that teaching music from other cultures that are strange to the Western ear with different modes, tonalities, and rhythms than we’re used to challenges our voices and brains to become better musicians. Stephanie also loves the water and had experience teaching swimming and water aerobics, so when a job as Aquatics Coordinator for the Carbondale Park District came up, she took the job. She says that she’s very happy working there. I also asked her about her hobbies–she replied that in her “spare” time, she finds painting very relaxing. I asked Stephanie what kinds of techniques she might use to build shy people’s confidence in their own voices, as some people get discouraged in childhood early on by a thoughtless remark from a parent or sibling. She replied, “It’s very important to make singing fun for little children, boys in particular. Once people reach adulthood, it’s far more challenging to teach them to have confidence in their voices . . . there are apps, however–a karaoke app in particular–that adults can be encouraged to try. They can practice singing in private and get instant feedback on how they sound. And from there, some will eventually open up and want to sing. You can encourage them to come to choir with a supportive friend. The choir director can seat a timid singer next to a stronger one to help her/him along and build confidence.” How does Stephanie perceive us as a congregation and enjoy working with the choir?  She replied that people are “so open and accepting; willing to help . . . a great group of diverse people. I knew a few prior to coming here, so walking in here, it felt like family.”