Bridgeville Events
Thursday, September 16th. 1999
 
Music has always been her life
By Bill McCauley

This fall Carolyn Whitt starts her 28th year as a music teacher, 19 of them consecutively at Woodbridge since her return in 1981. She had earlier taught at Woodbridge before moving to Newark with her growing family. “I have 27 years of experience as a teacher and I still love it,” she said.
Whitt’s three children are grown. The oldest, Stacie, 28, works as a probation and parole officer. Cecily, 26, is a nurse at A.I. DuPont in Wilmington. The youngest, Jon, 25, is a correction officer at the Sussex County Correctional Institution in Georgetown.
“All three of them play musical instruments and all three graduated from college. I’m very proud of them,” she said.
Whitt and her family made their home in Seaford where she continues to live. She gives high marks to the Seaford schools. “All of my children graduated from Seaford High School and received fine educations from public schools. We are very fortunate to have such good public schools as Seaford, Woodbridge and Laurel,” she said.
Whitt sang in the choir at Seaford Presbyterian Church and directed its choir until two years ago. “My activities are now centered around Woodbridge Elementary,” she said. Those activities include active involvement with her students at Bridgeville’s annual Apple-Scrapple Festival.
“We do different things,” she said. “Sometimes band students perform. Other times we’ve had kids singing — whatever they are currently doing in class we will be doing there. It’s a wonderful thing — a safe environment where kids in town walk over to the performances. It’s a very nice family setting. My own children have helped frequently.”
Whitt was born in Pemberton in the coalfields of western Virginia where her father was a coal miner. “I was a coal miner’s daughter,” she laughed. The vision of a small high school up in the hollows in the mountains is quickly scrubbed when she reveals that her graduating class numbered 312. Hers was an active involvement in the school’s music program — all-state orchestra for two or three years and all-state band for three. For the school band she played trumpet and baritone horn; for the orchestra, violin. “Music was my life. Absolutely. Still is,” Whitt said.
In nearby Concord College she continued her band involvement. Instead of orchestra she sang in the college chorus, as well as with the madrigal singers.
After graduating from Concord, where she studied music appreciation, she began her teaching career with three years in Virginia. She then made the move to Delaware.
Of her music program at Woodbridge Elementary, she said, “We run about 100 kids in the band program (limited to students in the 5th and 6th grades), and 74 in choir, grades 5 and 6.
My band performed last year at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington.” She adds that later in the school year she forms a jazz band when they are “ready for it. Kids have to be ready — it’s lots of syncopated rhythm.” For the past several years the elementary school’s jazz band has performed at the Rehoboth Jazz Festival and at Sydney’s Restaurant. BThe elementary school choir performed about three years ago at the opening of the legislative session in Dover. Whitt proudly recalls a photo of them on the front page of the News Journal — “Three columns across and in color! They looked so good and sounded so good. They just couldn’t help it,” she said.
A defining moment in Whitt’s teaching career came early last school year upon the departure of Woodbridge’s High School band director. Though she is modest about her own role, she essentially stepped in and directed the band until the arrival of the new band director, Robert Lewis.
“I felt so sorry for the kids. They had spent more than 200 hours in August learning the routines they were to perform at half-time at football games. Two weeks of 13 hour days from 8 in the morning to 9 in the evening.” This was at band camp at the school. “Parents worked almost as hard as the kids.When people make that kind of commitment, you can’t just let it drop. They went on to get first place in the State Firemen’s Parade in Dover. Ninety some-odd kids that day.”
Whitt said that “the real story was how everybody pulled together.” She singles out for special kudos, parents Mike and Terry Hartzell, along with Melvin Hopkins. “Senior student and drum major Willie Savage was instrumental in keeping the band together. John Hulse came down and helped. It was definitely a group effort.”
Whitt said that the school year’s agenda for the elementary school’s band and choir is not complete. Starting in January and February, invitations will start to come in, she says. Highlights of the year, as in the past, are the winter concert in December and the festival of the arts in the spring.
Whitt said that Woodbridge School is a great place to work. “There’s support from parents and grandparents. We really have nice kids. I’ve read all that stuff in the paper with negative stories about schools. I think that sells more papers. I’m not sure. Come to our school and see and watch.”
In addition to music Whitt’s interests include hiking and bicycling. On a recent trip to the Grand Canyon she hiked 10 miles down from its summit to its base. “When we started, the temperature was 49 degrees. When we got to the bottom it was 97 degrees.”
She wishes she lived close enough to Greenwood so she could ride her bicycle to school. She describes a bicycle ride that she has done from Seaford to Galestown, Md., back by way of the Woodland Ferry. “It’s only 25 miles!” she says reassuringly.