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South Jordan Journal

Elk Ridge choir teacher intermixes love of performing with teaching

Apr 03, 2022 07:01PM ● By Julie Slama

While Elk Ridge Middle School teacher Keith Goodrich’s room “has suits, dresses, hats, feathers, shoes everywhere,” there’s nothing he would change in teaching choir students and directing the school musical while continuing to be a performer. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Elk Ridge Middle school choir teacher Keith Goodrich may finally be able to sit, but don’t expect him to put his feet up.

The past few weeks have been “pretty crazy,” as he not only rehearsed 4 1/2 hours nightly and then performed as pirate Tom Morgan and a pirate drummer in Hale Centre Theatre’s “Treasure Island.” But he also directed the music in the school production of “The Music Man” all while teaching his choir students.

“I am a performer,” he said. “I feel like it is important to teach performance, but also be able to perform and be currently performing. Teaching at Elk Ridge is my dream job. There always are implications of teachers teach, because they couldn’t do. Or teach middle school because they couldn’t get a job at a high school or college, but that’s not true. This is where I want to be.”

Goodrich uses his knowledge as a performer to teach his students. It may begin with music, but it stretches into performance and life.

“I just finished my master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Utah,” he said. “And as a master student, my technique was perfected, my range increased, I got to study the voice and how it works more in depth, which translates to being a better singer and that translates into being a better voice teacher. [As voice teacher] I can hear problems in the students’ voices, and I can assess them more quickly and diagnose quickly where problems are coming from and fix them faster. I think it results in the kids being better singers. I think there’s a trickle down when my students have a better understanding of the voice and how the voice works, then they’ll use their voices correctly and that makes great choirs even better.”

Goodrich said about half of “The Music Man” cast are in one of his choir classes.

“There’s a crossover with acting. If you’re alone on the stage or if you’re in a choir of 300 kids, you still have to perform while singing, so there’s an element of acting that goes into that. It’s comes down to storytelling, you’re learning the skill of using the music and learning the script to tell a story,” he said.

That begins with preparation and auditions.

“I talk about the audition process when we do audition workshops here before the school musical,” Goodrich said. “I do two workshops where we teach audition songs to students that they can use for their auditions and then we go through audition techniques, so they know what it’s going to feel like that’s very similar to the audition process I go through at Hale. I’ll talk to them and say, ‘Hey, look, I know this is scary, but I’m doing it too. I’m putting myself out there and sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t.’”

Goodrich goal is for students to try, to reach beyond their comfort zone.

“I always tell kids they have these opportunities; all they have to do is audition,” he said. “It’s better for a director to tell you whether or not you’re right for the part than for you to tell yourself that. Don’t reject yourself. That’s not your job. Your job is to audition and do your best. A lot of people hold themselves back because they think, ‘I’ll never get cast’ or ‘I won’t even make it in that show’ so they never try. There’s a lot to overcome, a lot of inhibitions. I think that’s the point for me. I like the challenge and I like challenging myself, learning new skills, how good I can be, putting myself out there.”

To help students break out of their comfort zones such as singing a solo, Goodrich will ensure they know the material well. Then divide into sectionals, then perhaps a duet or trio, before “talking to them and saying, ‘whoa, you didn’t die. Your heart’s beating really fast, but being nervous is part of the process.’ Ultimately, every student was able to perform a solo in front of the class.”

Ninth grader Joshua Demke said he’s been in choir under Goodrich's direction for three years.

“He has given us the mindset that we can make it if we prepare and try,” said Demke, who played Salesman 2 in “The Music Man.” “He inspires us and teaches us to bring out more of ourselves.”

Goodrich said the skills he teaches extend beyond choir or theater.

“Most of the arts you’re learning in classes, but that can definitely apply to the rest of your life,” he said. “I know that all these kids I teach aren’t going to become professional singers, but that experience teaches these kids way more than music experiences. It teaches these kids that they can do hard, scary things—to believe in themselves, to trust in themselves, that they’re not going to let themselves down.”

He also said it opens their eyes to careers they may never have considered.

“What you see in theaters on stage is 10% of what this industry has to offer,” he said. “There are set designers, costume designers, sound engineers, sound mixers, recorders, mic technicians, wardrobe personnel, makeup designers, wig maintainers, marketing, education outreach, administration, writers, directors, composers. There’s just so much more to go into it. Everybody always told me that there’s no money in the arts, but really, there’s money everywhere with so many different careers.”

It's also important to Goodrich that students see professional theater. Since teaching at Elk Ridge, he has been able to bring three student groups to Hale—“Phantom,” seen before the pandemic, and “The Secret Garden” this past fall, and now, “Treasure Island.”

“Exposing them to art is really important to me,” said the performer who first appeared on Hale’s stage in 2013 in “Tarzan” as an aerial acrobat and has been seen in 13 shows there since.

“Treasure Island” appealed to Goodrich since he could act and play the Celtic Bodhram as an accomplished musician.

“They created a score for our show,” he said. “I get to play a part of that music creation process, adding my instrument along with the violin and the guitar, and that’s exciting to me.”

Demke, who saw the show with the concert choir, said Goodrich becomes the pirate drummer after his character dies in the first act.

“I think he dies in every role he’s been in,” the student said. “Before we came, he told us the show was based on the book, and it was a fun adventure, with a lot of pirates and water.”

Students also were provided a study packet from Hale’s education department to prepare them for the show with information on the author and book, the characters and “what was culturally acceptable during this time period,” Goodrich said.

“They just have a little bit more knowledge about the show, and that just enhances their experience,” he said.

Goodrich's performing arts career started early, taking up the violin in second grade as he was told he could have his grandfather’s instrument if he learned to play. He now can play violin, viola, cello, bass and piano. He self-taught himself to play the Celtic Bodhram.

He first took the stage in third grade in an abridged production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where his St. George class performed it on the Globe Theatre replica in Cedar City. He received scholarships in high school and college to pay his way through earning his undergraduate degree at Dixie State University.

“I always knew I wanted to teach,” he said. “I work really well with kids and like giving them the gift that somebody gave me and helping them on their musical journey.”

While he has previously toured, been a 2016 quarterfinalist for the GRAMMY music education award, and has had other opportunities in performing, Goodrich choose to live in Utah to balance his family, “a wonderful job” and “getting the opportunity to perform at Hale.”

Goodrich hopes to pay it forward and inspire students.

“To this day, my parents have never missed a show or concert, not a single one—their support and my teachers’ have meant a lot,” he said. “My high school theater teacher said, ‘The hardest things in life are often times the things that will bring you the most joy.’ Putting on a musical is really hard, and being in one is, too, but at the end of it, while you’re actually doing, it, you’re like, ‘Yeah, this actually is bringing me a lot of joy.’"

A previous version of this story incorrectly had Goodrich's name as "Goodwin."