There are limits to how far voices carry, even if those voices are lifted in song. The distance between the Hoosier State and the Palmetto State does not seem to stop Erin Phillips, an award-winning music educator with roots in Rochester, Indiana.
Currently, in her third year as Choir Director of the Walhalla High School Choir in Walhalla, South Carolina, Phillips traces her love of music to her mother, who always inspired and encouraged her to sing.
“We were involved in music and dance at our church for as long as I can remember," she says. "I loved it so much, and she always nurtured that and encouraged us to participate.”
That included participating under the direction of Donna Frissinger in a group called Arise. Arise is a musical singing group affiliated with Faith Outreach Center in Rochester. Participating in the musical group helped to light the spark that inspired Erin to gravitate toward music as her education continued. She cites a band director and a choir director as influential in keeping her on a musical path.
“We were always performing; they offered events for us to participate in to get as much experience as we could- or as much as we wanted.”
Knowing she wanted to pursue a career in music, Erin earned her Master's Degree in Vocal Performance but only later realized that teaching was her true calling. She went back to school to obtain a Teaching Certification for Music with an emphasis on choral music and soon found herself instructing at Ridge View High School in Columbia, South Carolina. After five years at that school, she moved on to her current position in Walhalla.
Under her guidance, Walhalla HS Choir students have participated in several esteemed regional events, earning awards and outstanding recognition in choir competitions and showcases. They were also invited to play at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall in April 2020, but the event was sidelined, as many things were, by the COVID-19 crisis. Undeterred by the disruptive impact the virus has had on her students and herself, Erin continues to appreciate the opportunity to help young people discover their voices.
“Working with them is an awesome job! I have definitely learned how to be more flexible and more patient,” she says. “What I want to offer my students is opportunity and experience, and to inspire them to continue to consume choral music after they leave school- by participating in choir in college or within their community.”