Each day with Mrs. Verney-Fink starts the way any day should start if one wants to have a positive outlook and work toward their goals. “Who would like to do our Gratitude Attitude today?” Mrs. Verney-Fink asks her choir classes individually as they all settle into their seats and over the Google Meet. Then the warm-ups begin and wonderful harmonies echo through the room and defeat the masks that hold the students in.
‘Gratitude Attitude’ has become a new motivational beginning to the class since the beginning of the school year.
“This pandemic time has just been really tough for all of us in a different way, and my fear is that we have pandemic fatigue and it is hard to find the motivation,” Mrs. Verney-Fink said. “It came from the hope that my students would continue to stay motivated during this difficult time, and hopefully by remembering that we have a lot to be thankful for it will make the minutiae of what we’re doing not seem so bad… a way to bring the choir together and the more that we share about each other, the more connected we feel.”
Mrs. Verney-Fink inspires her students and they feel that she is the reason everyone is so close.
“Choir is my home, my second family – and Mrs. Verney-Fink makes our time together so special. I hope she realizes how much she has done for us,” Paige Socol of Bel Canto Singers said.
Each class, a student would be chosen to share something that they are thankful for that has kept them motivated, and each time someone shares, it brings a smile to everyone’s faces.
That connection is what brought Mrs. Verney-Fink to choir.
The feeling of hitting a chord in All-State Choir in the 10th grade with beautiful harmonies and the “most incredible feeling” with immense chills made her want to teach choir.
“I remember, in that moment, thinking every person should experience what I just experienced…[I] want[ed] to give people the experience of creating choral music and getting those goosebump moments,” she said with a smile on her face.
The joy of music has always been a part of Mrs. Verney-Fink’s life. From her first days of choir to now, her life has been filled with moments that have brought people together and inspired her.
Her favorite choir song is “O My Luv’s Like a Red, Red Rose.” First, she sang it at All-Eastern Choir, an audition-based select choir, while attending Newtown High School and it blew her away with how amazing it sounded… and what it felt like to sing it,” a moment of beauty in the song. Then, it was sung at her wedding by her students and friends as she walked down the aisle.
At James Madison University, she was in the highest level choir called the ‘Madison Singers’. One weekend they sang at a brunch and one family was so touched and inspired by their performance that they donated three million dollars to open up a new School of Music building at the university.
“You never realize how something you do might change something else. And a random gig…changed the university,” she reflected.
“She always has us think about why we are singing the piece, and the message behind the song,” Socol said. “We sing songs in hopes of creating change or making people happy – it’s one of my favorite things about choir.”
With her Zumba instructor license, these moments let Verney-Fink know that even if she couldn’t teach choir, she would do something in the music field, bringing music to a community in some way, or teaching – along with being a mother.
She has stumbled upon the career that she was meant to be in.
“It’s those [choir] moments that keep you going because you feel that hopefully something you’re doing is making a difference in other people’s lives… That’s how I approach my career and now as a mom, I’m trying to shape my son into a little human who is also going to have a great life experience and positively contribute to the world.”
She believes that choir can change the world and that the coming together of many voice parts is symbolic of so much of our lives. “I hope that through choral music, students have a sense that they are part of this world community and that they can make an impact in their own way,” she said.
To add on to that, her hope for her students is for them to “feel inspired to sing for their whole life and… that I develop enough skill in my students that they are confident enough and passionate enough that they want to keep singing.”
Music is an experience, and she wishes for everyone to have their own moments that give them goosebumps and make a positive impact on the world around them.
“At the end of the day, I hope that I’ve inspired students to keep music in their lives forever,” Mrs. Verney-Fink said.