The nomination process to award Judith Ranaletta the TONY Award brings back so many memories. I was a mathematics teacher at Athena High School and was jealous of Judith’s ability to create a love of vocal music in so many students. Many of her students excelled in math, but very few students loved math in the same way as Judith’s students loved voice classes, choir, show choir and musical theater. At first I thought it was a left brain-right brain reason but, the more I became involved with the Show Choir and musical productions I understood that it was Judith’s magic molding and nurturing the young talent.
I came to understand Judith’s magnetism when I became a Show Choir parent. My son never complained about long rehearsals. He enjoyed the classes, the voice lessons, and the musical production preparations (which included learning to tap dance in 6 months). He loved music, the theater, singing, dance and Ran. He, and his musical family, worked diligently practicing and performing. Parents worked hard to support the groups, fund raising and working behind the scenes during the professionally polished shows. I chaperoned the two Show Choir trips to Europe. Those trips were grueling at times but educational and enriching most of the time. As a parent, I was so proud of these high school students who admirably represented their school (and teacher). My most emotional moment was in Normandy at the WWII Memorial watching them lay the wreath of remembrance and hold hands as they honored the fallen in song.
Due to Judith’s influence my son attended the NYS Summer School of the Arts program, performed with All-State choirs and the All-Eastern Jazz choir. In college he didn’t major in music but was involved in about 25 theater productions: dancing, singing, acting, choreography or production. He participated in his school’s Freshman Arts Program (1997) and has worked with that program every year encouraging youth to develop their talents, as Judith encouraged him.
Judith Ranaletta is the teacher that every teacher strives to be. She shares her love for her craft and encourages each student to develop “their voice” for all to hear. As I read the nominations from Judith’s students it is apparent that their developed voices are not all singing songs: many credit Judith for their confidence, others credit her for creating a much needed safe place for them to develop in their teenage years, still others are indebted to her for being a loving role model. I may be able to come up with a handful of ex-students who would view my role in their lives as life-changing. Judith Ranaletta’s thankful ex-students are countless! And rightfully so.