Singing at Cornell – two volunteer teachers’ favorite day of the year

By Linjun Fan

More than 200 children of Cornell Elementary School sang holiday songs cheerfully with Marilyn Chamberlain directing and Mary Wallmann playing the piano on their last day of school Friday. The two ladies have been teaching singing classes voluntarily to third-graders in the school for more than ten years.

They teach kids various children’s songs every Tuesday during school weeks, and led a big performance at the end of a semester.

“That’s my favorite day of the week, and this is my favorite day of the year, ” Wallmann said.

Chamberlain taught her students folk songs every week when she was a teacher for third-graders at the school, and she has kept doing it even after she retired.

“Music makes people smile, ” said Chamberlain. “You see kids light up when they sing.”

She was later joined by Wallmann,  a retired librarian of Albany High School and a veteran pianist in the community.

Not only traditional American songs, but folk songs from several different cultures are taught in the singing class now, including a song on Jewish holiday Chanukah, and a song about ancestors of African Americans. One of the songs, It’s A small World, was performed by Cornell’s young singers in five languages – English, Japanese, Spanish, Mandarin and Hebrew.

However, to the two teachers’ dismay, the well-known song for Christmas Eve Silent Night was excluded by school administrators, who regard it to be too religious to be taught at school.

Singing at Cornell 

Mary Wallmann

Retired teacher Marilyn Chamberlain and librarian Mary Wallmann have been teaching singing classes voluntarily to third-graders in Cornell Elementary School in Albany for more than ten years. Photo by Linjun Fan.

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