A sign that hangs in my classroom says “the best way for a student to get out of difficulty is to go through it.” Writing this is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. I have always tried to ingrain in my students a mindset of growth. I do not simply mean growth in music, but in all aspects of life. I expect the same of myself and am always looking for opportunities to stretch the boundaries of my knowledge and abilities. Quite unexpectedly, I was contacted last week and asked to apply and interview for a position at another school. I love my current job, my colleagues, and most of all, my students, but this particular position offers me something that I have always encouraged the students to pursue: growth. I often tell them “if you’re any good at all, you know you can be better.” I feel that this position will challenge me in new and different ways. While the decision was difficult and weighed heavily on me emotionally, I decided to accept the position of Choir Director at Noe Middle School.
I still believe that Henry County and their students possess the talent, skills, and (most importantly) drive to excel in the performing arts. I am not abandoning those I love. I am hard at work to help find a candidate that will continue the great things we have built here, including the choirs, theatre program, and community theatre. I am also working to ensure that all of the trips and events planned continue. There is no reason that the Singers cannot be successful in Chicago or the Chorale represent Henry County in Spain.
To my students: you are smart, talented and resilient. Many of you have already had experiences singing under other choir directors and understand that a choir’s success is really up to its members. That said, I plan to be available to the new choir director to provide support in any way possible to help ensure your continued success. What we have built together matters, and I would never simply turn my back and walk away. And don’t think I could be gotten rid of that easily! I plan to continue to help support The Theatre Downstream and the wonderful work we do with and for the community. I will still be a part of your lives and see you thrive both on stage and off. I look forward to our change of relationship from teacher and student to sharing the stage as equals.
In my life I have found that opportunities arise in our lives for a reason, and I firmly believe that while this change will be difficult for many (including myself), it will ultimately help me toward my goal of eventually working at the collegiate level and training future generations of performing arts teachers. My time here has helped make me the choir director that I am, and I am grateful to all of the wonderful students, family members and friends that have loved and supported me through the years. I love you all and can’t wait to see you again soon.
James Russell Cooper
Director of Choirs & Theater
Henry County Public Schools