GREENFIELD — While it might not be easy getting a bunch of teenage boys to want to sing, choir teacher Mary Evers makes it look effortless.
As she belted out some high-energy tunes from a piano in a Greenfield classroom last week, the 20 or so teens standing around the piano happily sang along.
“She communicates with us and makes choir exciting,” said Evan Teskey, an eighth-grader at Greenfield Central Junior High School, where Evers has taught for the past five years.
This month, the longtime educator was named this year’s Outstanding Music Teacher for Indiana by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Evers said she was humbled by the honor.
Mick Bridgewater, president of the Indiana State School Music Association, said she’s one of the most influential and impactful music teachers he’s ever known.
“Mary is definitely one of the most highly respected music educators not just in Indiana, but nationally,” he said.
The leadership roles she’s carried out over the years demonstrate her passion for instilling a love of music in her kids, said Bridgewater, who nominated Evers for the award.
In addition to teaching at the junior high school, Evers also serves as president of the Midwestern Region of American Choral Directors Association, having served as president of the Indiana association in the past.
She also directs the Master Chorale (the high school choir within the Indianapolis Children’s Choir); has directed the Indianapolis Youth Chorale, and has served on numerous committees for the state school music association.
On Feb. 14, Evers will travel to the Indiana Statehouse to be presented with Indiana’s Outstanding Music Teacher award.
Her students say she’s well-deserving of the honor.
“She’s an awesome teacher. She’s funny and happy and she’s nice. She tells jokes and makes choir fun,” said 14-year-old Matthew Wyand, an eighth-grader at Greenfield Central Junior High School.
Principal Jim Bever said Evers has a special way of coaxing melodic sounds from even the least confident choir students.
“Mary’s superpower as an educator is found in her passion for both students and music,” Bever said.
“A student’s raw talent is never a factor. Mary encourages them all. She is dedicated to them all and will do anything possible to help them find their love of music.”
Evers said she loves sharing the gift of music with her students, even those teenage boys whose voices crack as they learn how to sing with ever deepening voices.
“I just meet students where they are,” Evers said. “I’ve never been a teacher who says ‘don’t sing,’ because everyone has something to contribute.”
The longtime teacher believes that participating in a school music program builds a great sense of self-confidence and community in students, especially for choir students, whose instrument is their voice.
She’s a big proponent of student choral competitions, and she encourages her students to participate as both soloists and ensembles whenever possible.
Evers also devotes herself to lifting up fellow choir directors, and is in the process of planning a conference for them in her role in the American Choral Directors Association.
“I’ve always felt it’s been valuable to make sure that people have conferences to give them the information needed to be successful,” Evers said, “because when they’re successful, their kids are successful.”
Evers grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from Michigan State University.
She taught in Michigan for five years before getting married and moving to Indiana, where she subbed at local schools before landing the choir director position at Greenfield-Central High School in 1994.
She taught there until transitioning to the junior high school in 2017.
Although she loves her home state of Michigan, Evers said she’s thankful that she and her husband, Brian, ended up living in Greenfield, where they raised their son Andrew, who graduated from Greenfield-Central in 2016.
“I think we’ve always had a very strong music program here in Greenfield,” she said. “I just feel very fortunate that we landed here.”