Making Beautiful Music

Two Nazareth alumnae keep Chittenango’s school music program all in the family

by Robin L. Flanigan

Rose Thresh and Diane Parker

They couldn’t have planned it better, maybe because the plan was decades in the making.

This past June, Diane Redmore Parker ’65 retired after teaching elementary and middle school music for 50 years in the Chittenango Central School District—only to be succeeded by one of her closest former students, Rose Thresh ’14.

“When I finally made the decision to retire,” recalls Parker, “I called her and said, ‘Rosie, get all your ducks in a row and as soon as they post the opening, get your resume in.’”

The pair met when Thresh was in sixth grade. During the next several years they worked together preparing for select choir concerts and solo festivals, and they kept in touch as Thresh went on to perform in high school musicals and attend Nazareth College, where she was a music education major with a concentration in voice.

Parker, who landed her post in Chittenango immediately after graduating from Nazareth with a music education degree (piano as a major, voice as a minor), credits her alma mater with instilling in her both professional confidence and the passion for belonging to a caring school community.

“I so loved my job, you can probably count the number of days that I missed on two hands,” she says.

Parker left Thresh, who is teaching in the same classroom she once studied in, her coveted office chair and meticulously labeled and organized music books.

“People say I have big shoes to fill, and I know that,” Thresh says. “But Diane and I are very similar, and she made it easier for me to step in.”

Thresh notices a connection between the education and training she and her mentor each received at Nazareth.

“It’s not about the details of this assignment or that assignment, it’s more about being there for your students no matter what,” she adds. “It’s about being a better person, which helps you be a better educator.”

Thresh, who now works alongside a principal who was her assistant principal in middle school, gets a kick out of telling her students she once was where they are now: “I tell them, ‘That’s where I sat in choir, and in that chair I met my best friend.’”

Parker is prone to reminiscing, too, her voice straining as she talks about her youngest students (“They just accepted you for whatever you felt that day”) and her pre-teen students (“All those hormones…”), and about mixing up song selections at concerts to keep audiences on their toes.

“It’s tough not being there,” Parker admits, clearing her throat. “I miss my kids. But knowing that it’s Rosie who got the job is so great.”

So the obvious question: Will her successor be in the same position in 50 years?

Says Thresh, “Anything is possible!”

Robin L. Flanigan is a writer in Rochester, New York.

Thresh's middle school class

Thresh (far left) directs her middle school chorus students.