A teacher’s good work often shines in her students, and for Windsor High School choral director Tracee White, the product of her hard work now shines on television.
White is the former teacher of rising star Kymberli Joye, a current finalist on NBC’s television reality competition The Voice. Joye’s vocal talents have landed her a spot in the top 10 on the program, which airs Mondays and Tuesdays.
White, who taught Joye for four years and learned that her protégé was auditioning for the show earlier this year, has been following her former student’s successes, even incorporating her progress into lessons for her choir classes.
“I make it educational,” White says, adding that she shows each performance to her classes. “They write reflections and critiques on the vocal performances. They look forward to that every week.”
An added bonus was when her star student was able to visit Windsor High School recently to share her experiences on The Voice—a huge morale-booster for current students.
“Kymberli told them to never give up on their dreams, no matter what it is you are doing, and even if it doesn’t happen right away,” says White.
The world stage
Often, a music teacher will work with a student for the duration of that child’s school experience—forming a relationship that lasts many years.
White recalls watching Joye transform from a shy freshman to a confident vocalist who sang the national anthem at her 2009 graduation. She then left to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“You can see growth and confidence building up,” White explains, adding that in Joye’s high school career, she performed various types of music with different groups. “You see their growth not only as musicians, but as people.”
White knows that a teacher’s influence can be profound. Growing up in Bloomfield, she dreamed of being a teacher. Her connection to music, however, was born at school when her elementary school music teacher saw a musical spark in her.
“When I was eight, my music teacher contacted my mom and asked, ‘Who is Tracee studying with?’” White recalls. “When my mother said I wasn’t taking lessons anywhere, my teacher said, ‘I can see something in her’—and so my parents got a piano.”
White went on to play French horn, sing, and ultimately combine her love of music with her desire to teach. She credits her elementary school teacher for helping her find that vision.
“It was she who got me to where I am now,” says White, adding that she strives to do the same for her students.
Indeed, former students of White’s have gone on to become music teachers, perform on Broadway, and travel the world—all the while keeping in touch to share their successes and remind her of the positive influence she has had.
Kymberli Joye, of course, is currently her most high-profile former student. Before landing on The Voice, the 26-year-old was singing backup for various performers and working with gospel singer J.J. Hairston, for which she has been nominated for a Grammy.
But it’s Joye’s role on The Voice, as part of pop superstar Kelly Clarkson’s team of talent, that White is able to witness personally each week on the small screen, however nerve-wracking those episodes may be.
“I’m screaming, hollering, rewinding… It’s like I’m there! I’m just as nervous!” White confides. “I feel like she can win this whole thing. She has the voice, and she’s teachable… She was always open to hearing what could better her performance…She just has it. She’s the whole package.”