Ms. Eyler supports choral students in achieving their musical goals
January 26, 2021
If students at RM were asked about their art elective, most would probably respond with “art” or “band” or “orchestra.” But another option, chorus, exists for those interested in singing, and those of whom enroll in one of choral director Carrie Eyler’s classes are able to take their music ambitions one step further.
Even before becoming a teacher, Ms. Eyler dedicated a large portion of her life to her passion for music. “I went to a little music conservatory in Princeton, New Jersey called Westminster Choir College, and I did my bachelor’s there in Music Education. I also did my master’s degree there in Voice Performance and Pedagogy,” she said. Before teaching, Ms. Eyler also used to sing as a soloist in Washington D.C.
Apart from her love for making music, Ms. Eyler recently gave birth to her son, James, in late October and has been on maternity leave ever since. She dedicates the remainder of her time to taking care of her three kids and leading her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.
Over quarantine, Ms. Eyler discovered her newfound hobbies of hiking and cooking. “I love hiking, which I never thought I would say, but because of coronavirus, we’ve been hiking a lot to get the kids out of the house … And I hosted my first ever Thanksgiving dinner this year in 2020,” she said.
Although quarantine has given her the opportunity to explore new interests, COVID-19 also presented problems for her, particularly related to teaching chorus. “It’s been difficult to teach chorus during online learning because the traditional format of chorus, which is all of us singing together simultaneously and making music, is not possible through the internet. So there’s no current program online that allows you to simultaneously make music with other people,” Ms. Eyler said.
Instead, Ms. Eyler transferred students to using an online app to combine music in a collaborative effort. “There’s this website called Soundtrap, which is basically a DAW or digital audio workspace, and basically you can record yourself singing or playing an instrument and then compile it together and produce a song,” junior Corrigan Peters said. Other parts of class are spent learning about music history, reading music and music theory.
These challenges spurred Ms. Eyler to think about teaching from a completely new angle. “I’ve been teaching things in a similar way and in a similar format for 12 years, and it was successful. I fine-tuned it over the years so that I got the results that I wanted and it was good for everybody, [so] really starting fresh and starting over was challenging … it’s just a whole new world,” she said. Regardless of the obstacles, Ms. Eyler has shown her ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
In addition to the virtual aspect of singing now, Ms. Eyler also voiced her feelings about the absence of face to face communication. “The thing I love about teaching is the communication and the interacting with students and building relationships. And it’s hard to build relationships when you can’t see the other person,” she said. Especially if chorus was during the first period of the day, it would be tempting for many students to turn off their cameras or go back to sleep.
Even with these challenges, Ms. Eyler still manages to leave a good impression on her classes. There is quite a bit of agreement between her students when it comes to describing her as a person. “Very warm, bright, overall a really kind person,” senior George Sellers said of her. “Virtuoso, majestic, kind,” junior Angelina Guhl agreed.
Her inclusion of all the students in the class is a stand-out feature about her teaching. “I think that she always makes an effort to not only make sure that everyone is learning and improving, but also that everyone feels accepted and that everyone has a place in the choir,” Peters said.
Some examples of her open personality and mission to ensure that all students feel accepted are only known to her chorus students. “Usually on Fridays, we’ll do Encore, which is a game where you have a word and then there are two teams, and you try to sing a song that has that word in it. So it’s just a way to lighten things up on a Friday and make sure we’re staying engaged,” Sellers said. And to build a sense of community, Ms. Eyler added a unique touch to her class dynamic. “One thing she did is that last year she started a thing called a Compliments Box and students … would write a compliment to a friend or a classmate or even someone they’re not really friends with,” Guhl said.
To her students, the most prominent aspect of Ms. Eyler’s teaching is her dedication to them outside of normal teaching roles. “She just provides everyone with an opportunity to go as far as they want in music and chorus, and I know for me — for everyone — she encouraged everyone to audition for the All State Chorus, and she frequently provides opportunities for solos and accompaniment if students play instruments,” Peters said. “For the past two years we sang at the White House twice because Ms. Eyler has submitted videos to the White House and they selected our group to perform … we also get to have more opportunities outside of school because she always wants us to strive to do the best,” added Guhl.
Music is Ms. Eyler’s passion, and she continues to support her students even through a computer screen from miles away. However, once schools reopen, her biggest hope is to make music with her students again. “The day that we can be together in-person and make music will be an overwhelming experience for me, I’m sure, because I’m getting choked up just thinking about it. I miss it so much,” she said.