On June 14, Curtis Elementary will be saying goodbye to its music teacher. Randy McConnell has taught at the elementary school for 25 years.
All told, McConnell has been teaching for 39 years, including time in Tennessee, North Carolina and Lunenberg County, Va.
He said he is retiring because it’s time. “Someone told me years ago, ‘Randy, you’ll know when it’s time,’ and I did. I know it’s time.”
A native of east Tennessee, McConnell – who plays piano and organ – had an affinity for music at a young age. It was his choice to take lessons he said, noting that he started with private piano lessons before eventually studying at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C.
“I was the kid who would turn the radio on and listen to classical music, and I just fell in love with the melodies and harmonies and the complex forms of music,” McConnell said. “And I like it all, absolutely love all forms of music.”
McConnell initially majored in elementary education because he saw himself being a teacher and loved helping kids learn. He said he realized mid-year that he had to do music, and has absolutely no regrets because he’s done exactly what he was made to do.
McConnell – who also taught eighth-grade English – has taught middle school and elementary but prefers the latter because the students are fun to be around.
“I have a heart connection with the kids,” he said. “I’ve worked with kids since I was a teenager, and I have three of my own, and four grandkids so… I like being around children.”
McConnell’s long run at Curtis has resulted in him teaching students of students, and he has 15 “grandstudents” this year. He said it is neat to have that connection because he remembers their parents being students, and some of his former students are professional musicians who have returned and performed for his students over the years.
Growing up, McConnell said his love of music was heightened at church, and he loves the sound of the organ and the melodies and harmonies of the hymns. He was the organist at Grace Lutheran Church for 10 years, and he currently serves as the music director and organist at Chester Baptist Church, where he has been for the past 12 years.
Retirement will allow McConnell the freedom to continue working at Chester Baptist and to polish his piano and organ skills. He said he might teach piano again and is looking forward to spending time with his family.
McConnell’s students know he is retiring. He started preparing them last year. Even though it makes him feel sad that they don’t want him to leave, he said it feels good that they love him enough to want him to stay.
“Even some of my [former] students that are in high school or they’ve graduated, with whom I’m friends on Facebook, have expressed their love and gratitude and have reminisced about some things in which they were involved when they were here with me,” McConnell said. “Twenty-five years is a long time … it doesn’t seem long to me, but when you stop and think 25 years is a big hunk of time to spend in one spot, this is the spot.”
McConnell said he will miss singing and dancing with the kids and the colleagues he’s connected with on personal level. He said he had a really good and blessed career, and is totally satisfied with it.
“I’ve learned so much from teaching,” he said.