Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mr. Lister's Opus

My high school choir director is retiring this year.  This is one of those retirements that affects the entire communtiy- not to mention the 8000+ previous choir students who feel like the world has turned upside now that Norm Lister will no longer be a fixture at PVHS.  The local paper even wrote an article about his retirement.  (Although you can tell that the author was obviously not a former student.  He must have gone to Dixie.)  =)  In fact, Mr. Lister is so beloved that a couple of years ago he was persuaded to start a community choir so that alumni and their parents could have the opportunity to sing under his guidance outside of high school.  If ever there was a reason for me to want to live in St. George, THIS IS IT!  (Yeah, I know, not going to happen- but I can still dream.)
Anyway,  Mr Lister really taught me how to sing- along with the rest of my siblings.  Not only did he run the choir department, but he was in charge of the music for the school musicals.  Since musical theater and choir were the two things that I loved in high school, he was not only a teacher but a mentor and a substitute father.  And I was not the only student who felt that way.  Mr Lister put his whole heart and soul into everything he did and it really showed. 
Now that I am conducting the choir at church and trying to organize music in the stake, I am even more appreciative of everything Mr. Lister taught me.  I can picture him in my head when I am working on a piece of music and it helps me to get it where I want it to be.
Anyway, Wednesday was the final choir concert for the year and Mr. Lister's daughter arranged via Facebook for interested alumni to learn a choral arrangement of his and to join the current choir on stage to sing a tribute.  She called it Mr. Lister's Opus.  Oh, how I wish I could have been there!  My Mom said that it was amazing and so sweet.
At the end of the concert, the parents' group which fundraises for the choir presented Mr Lister with some presents.  1) A filing cabinet for his home signed by everyone who could get there and 2) a cruise to Alaska for him and his wife.  When I talked to Mom about the concert she told me the back story on the gifts:
Mrs. Kinzy, the head of the parents' organization called Sue Lister to ask for ideas for an appropriate gift for Mr Lister.  Sue suggested the filing cabinet as Mr Lister would be bringing home some of his own music that he had been using at school.  When told to think bigger Sue said, "Well, we always wanted to go on a church history tour or on a cruise."  Mrs Kinzy had laughed, "Maybe not that big."  As she purchased the filing cabinet, not only did Staples give them a school discount but when they learned it was for Mr. Lister, they gave an even bigger discount.  Then as Mrs. Kinzy was at the travel agent arranging for the cruise she received another discount and upon learning it was for Mr Lister the travel agent used her commission to upgrade his room on the boat.  Then they called the cruise line and were comped another upgrade for Mr Lister so that he had one of the best rooms available- ocean side, top level with a balcony.  For plane tickets to Seattle to get to the cruise, Mrs. Kinzy contacted the only airline that flies into and out of St. George.  (The airport is on top of a mesa so only little puddle jumper airlplanes can fly there.  (It is quite a trip, by the way.  I am never quite sure the plane is going to make it- landing on such a small platform.  Definitely not for the faint of heart!))   Anyway, I digress, the airline told Mrs Kinzy that they do not fly to Seattle but when they heard who the tickets were for, they sent money to her to pay for the tickets on another airline.  As my mom relayed this story I was practically in tears.  Mr. Lister has touched so many lives directly and indirectly but I doubt even he knew the impact he made was so widespread.
I only hope that when my kids are old enough to sing that they find someone even half as good as Mr Lister who can help instill the love of music and attention to detail that he instilled in me.  Enjoy retirement Mr. Lister!  If you get bored, I am sure there is a school out here in PA that would take you in a heartbeat!  =)


Jewels said...

Erin, *I* am practically in tears from this amazing portrait of a truly phenomenal man. God Bless Mr. Lister and all the lives he has touched. Thank you for sharing!
P.S. I sing, too. We have so much in common, honey...

WhiteEyebrows said...

Hear Hear!

It's hard to not treat the end of his career like a funeral - we are all that sad to know that he is not going to be there gracing the podium at Pine View.

If ever anyone taught me about excellence, it was Norm Lister.