Children’s Choir Director pays it forward with musical inspiration

By Tracy McNew

Libby’s Children’s Choir will be hosting a fundraiser dinner and auction on Friday, April 6 at the LES Commons. The Silent auction will start at 5:30 p.m. and a pulled pork dinner will be served at 6. Tickets are only $5 per person or $20 for a group of five. Children under four years old will be admitted for free.
The choir is seeking donations large or small for silent and live auctions that will be held during their April 6 event.
Please call choir Director, Mrs. Lorraine Braun at 239-2763 for tickets or to make a donation. Tickets can also be purchased from Children’s Choir members.
Funds raised from the event will be used for the choir to attend a Music in the Parks Festival competition in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on May 19. The festival will provide an opportunity for the Children’s Choir to be assessed by an outside panel of experienced vocal teachers who will also reinforce the music skills that students have learned throughout the school year.
According to Braun, the exciting end-of-year event helps with motivation because when the choir knows their performance will be evaluated they strive to do their best. The trip also helps with retention of skills and ongoing participation in choir, but more importantly, it motivates participants to build citizenship, teamwork and listening skills necessary for success.
The Children’s Choir is a program that was started by Braun separate from her job at Libby Public Schools. It is open to LES students, students from the Christian school, and home schooled students as well. The choir currently includes 57 students from grades one through six. This year marks thirteen successful years of the Children’s Choir, and Braun plans to keep it going. Earlier this year she applied for a 501c3 nonprofit status so the choir will be eligible to receive grants and tax deductible donations.
“I do it because I love it. I love helping the students grow from the inside out,” Braun said in an interview on Friday. “Music feeds their souls and it’s fun to see the change in these kids. They are building comradery, improving their communication, and gaining several other skills too.”
Braun doesn’t only work with the Children’s Choir, she also works with a Middle School choir of 24 students, a High School choir of 29 students, a Middle School Honors Choir of nine students, and a Community Choir with 30-35 adults.
The Libby Middle School and High School Choirs will also attend May’s competition festival in Coeur d’Alene.
In an email, festival organizers said, “Bringing home a trophy is like winning a sporting event. It helps increase awareness of the arts and reflects that the school has a balanced curriculum.”
Braun has helped her music students earn numerous trophies. Her music room at Libby High School showcases these accomplishments with trophies lined two or three deep filling the top of a large wall-length cabinet behind the risers where students practice.
Braun said that she grew up with music. She performed in band, acapella choir, orchestra, marching band, and jazz band.
“Like most teachers, inspiration to teach usually starts from positive experience and great teachers we had in school. If I can afford another similar experience, big or small, then it is well worth the investment.” said Braun in an email to the Montanian. “I guess you could say I want to pay it forward as much as I am able. I testify that music heals, strengthens, and uplifts the human spirit. I have seen it many times.”

Her students agree. Four of Braun’s music students recently returned from participating in a national Honors Choir in Portland sponsored by the American Choral Directors Association.
The students, Savanah Lucas, Cheyenne Nielson, Laurynn Lauer and Mikalyn Zeiler earned funds needed to make the trip to Portland, and spent three days in rehearsals prior to performing in the culminating concert event.
Zeiler, in an interview last Friday reiterated Braun’s sentiments of personal growth through music. She said “Every time you are in one of these experiences, your body actually changes chemically. Literally, you are not the same person afterwards.”
Zeiler was impressed by the city of Portland, meeting people from six states, and how connected she felt with others in the honors choir just through hearing their voices.
Lauer, a senior at LHS who plans to study music at the University of Idaho’s Lionel Hampton School of Music agreed with Zeiler. Lauer was a part of the Honors Choir, and also a part of a Northern Ambassadors of Music trip to London last year. She said “I got to listen to the jazz choir, and my heart actually stopped from hearing this kid. That’s what I want to do; to let my heart and soul go into something and to have that effect on someone else.” She shared that she will never be the same after her experiences. “They taught me to listen and understand before I do things, and I learned little life lessons too,” she said, “like giving in to positive peer pressure and laughing at every little thing I can.”
Braun has inspired more than just these two students. She recalls a parent thanking her after a concert because her daughter had come out of her shell and was more comfortable talking to kids and adults alike because of singing and performing with the choir.
Braun also shared the story of a High School choir student who had lost a parent and refused to sing a particular song because it reminded him of that experience. Eventually, she said, he joined in singing with the choir while rehearsing that song. “I believe that he needed time to process the lyrics and internalize and personalize a connection. Once that happened he was like a different person,” Braun said.
Braun shared how proud she is of the choir students in Libby. Some have made music their career, some have travelled abroad as musical ambassadors, some have sung in national choirs, many have sung in all-state choirs, and one will soon be singing in the Sydney Opera House in Australia, she said.
“During all of these experiences and opportunities the students become stronger and more amazing young adults in our school and community,” Braun concluded. Zeiler and Lauer enthusiastically agreed with her assessment.