Choir teacher’s six-year stint comes to end

As Kelli Pierson’s six-year run as choir director comes to an end, James Madison University student Anna Valentino will take over for the remainder of the year as a long-term sub.
Valentino enters the choir program coming from a situation mirroring that of Pierson when she first arrived.
“It was a little overwhelming,” Valentino said. “When I first found out, I was so excited. I mean, this is the dream.”
Pierson was also a student at James Madison University and became the choir teacher after filling in as a long term sub. Her successor now faces the same opportunity.
“At first I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a lot of music, and it’s hard music,’ and I took some time and really thought about it,” Valentino said. “Then I just hit the ground running, and I said this is what I want to do, and here’s how I can do it.”
After six years of teaching, Pierson found it emotional to leave her students.
“It hit me like a truck when I got home,” Pierson said. “It was just like everything kind of hit me at once.”
Valentino expressed her gratitude towards the welcoming community.
“The community has been so welcoming,” Valentino said. “Ms. Pierson has welcomed me with open arms and showed me all the ropes. I am so prepared, probably over prepared.” Valentino said.
Valentino will take over a job that Pierson described as her dream coming out of James Madison.
“It’s exactly what I wanted to do out of college,” Pierson said. “The community is amazing. The students are amazing. They work hard. They care a lot. They’re very passionate. The administration is really supportive. Our principal is a musician, and the parent boosters organization is really great. We have a lot of fundraising and financial support in this area, which is also helpful.”
Pierson said she will not be dissociating from Marshall entirely, and she sees herself finding her way back to the classroom.
“I would say it has shown me the power of music, the power of creating a culture in your classroom and a safe space for students,” Pierson said.
While Pierson plans to leave, she will return to conduct pieces for the final concert and graduation.
“[Students can] forget about [academics] for an hour and a half every other day and sing and make music,” she said. “It’s always fun to see people come out of their shells.”