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The new challenges this year brings for Susan Ainley is exciting. She has big dreams for the music department and knows that being in charge will enable her to accomplish them.

Music department gap is filled with enthusiastic attitude

With a large gap left in the teaching system on campus, FC administration scrambled to hire new teachers. The high school music department was left completely open and Susan Ainley was asked to fill the role that was left by former music director, Michael Ogdon.

Ainley seeks to fulfill vision and receives new job. She adds high school choir and ensemble to her list of classes. Her other major involvements across campus include: K-6th choir, 5th and 6th drama and junior high/high school choir and drama.

Even at a young age Ainley knew her calling was to be a teacher; that or a ballerina. At age six she began piano lessons and took on the flute in the fourth grade.

Throughout college she continued to study both instruments as well. She graduated in 1988 from Fresno Pacific University with a Bachelor’s degree in music education. She also studied for additional music education at Fresno State.

Ainley owes her success to the teachers she met in college, which she later considered to be her mentors.

“I remember singing in choir with Dr. Roy Klassen and the ‘light went on’ that this is what I wanted to do,” Ainley said. “He mentored me throughout my college years, and continues to keep in touch. I credit him for my work ethic. He ran rehearsals like a race, but our choirs were always fantastic.”

After graduating college, a high school teaching position opened up at the campus.

“I always wanted to teach here at FC, even before I had children who attended school here,” Ainley says. “I had many nieces and nephews come to Fresno Christian and I would often come to the Christmas concerts and different productions. I saw the things that they were teaching even just through their singing and the spirit of Jesus that was alive and well.”

I always wanted to teach here at FC, even before I had children who attended school here. I had many nieces and nephews come to Fresno Christian and I would often come to the Christmas concerts and different productions. I saw the things that they were teaching even just through their singing and the spirit of Jesus that was alive and well. –Susan Ainley

She then told principal, Gary Schultz, retired, about a goal she envisioned for the school. It included the start of a whole new music program. In order to produce a superior high school choir, music classes would start in kindergarten and continuously strengthen talents throughout the students’ time in school. The job offered did not appeal to her ideas and in the end she did not take up the position.

She received a job in Clovis Unified and taught there for four years. The music program there gave her more experience, which prepared her for future responsibility in the music field.

In 1998, her oldest daughter, Bree Ainley, began kindergarten at FC and another opportunity at the school of her dreams popped up. Her desire to be involved with the school opened up the possibility of her original music plan and she offered to teach music to her daughter’s class for free.

As her daughter grew up, she began to continuously teach that class with the addition of new classes each year. This happened for three years until principal Pat Unruh, retired, created a solid position for her. The job grew each year, adding fourth grade recorders, and elementary drama.

“Six years ago the junior high and high school choir position opened up and I was given the junior high,” Ainley said. “One of my favorite memories was our first choral festival at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. We were obviously the smallest group, singing in a festival with choirs of 60. I’m not sure I can describe it, but they were fantastic that day. When it was time to leave the festival, it took 30 minutes to get to the door, so many parents, teachers and festival workers stopped to tell me how beautiful my choir was.”

Senior Kim Ward, reflects on her past experience in choir with Ogdon and now with Ainley.

“I had him {Ogdon} for the first three years of high school so I grew very close and fond to him,” Ward said. “Mrs. Ainley is just as good and I think that this is going to be a great year for choir.”

For Zachary Passmore, ’17, this is his first year in choir. He looks forward to having Ainley as a teacher.

“I like just figuring out where my voice is and just kind of learning more about my ability to sing,” Passmore says. “She’s really nice and really fun and makes us really good food sometimes.”

Juliana Rosik, ’16, spent all of elementary with Ainley as a music teacher. She took a break from choir during junior high, but rejoined it at the start of high school. The musical lessons she was taught in elementary proved to be useful now, in her ensemble class.

“I’ve been reading music since I was little and I’ve played piano for a long time,” Rosik said. I don’t think I could do choir without that musical structure.”

The new challenges this year brings for Ainley is exciting. She has big dreams for the music department and knows that being in charge will enable her to accomplish them.

“I have amazing students that make teaching a joy,” Ainley says. “I love my job! It has requirements, but I don’t feel stressed, I feel blessed. I would love to see FC become a ‘magnet’ for students who love music. This is a dream of mine, to have every student in each grade be trained in voice and instrument. It just makes perfect sense to me for a Christian school to specialize in music.”

This writer can be reached via Twitter: @nhudecek16 or through email at nicolehudecek@gmail.com.

For more features, read the Sept. 17 article, New blogger shares expierences in Haiti