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Member Highlight: Alto, Connie Long

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

My first experience singing was growing up in Missouri on our farm calling in the cows and pigs. Yes, you read that right. I sang to get them to know the food was there. Being the youngest of four, I was constantly trying to out do my siblings. Barb, my second oldest sister, sang vocal solos in high school, so I knew I wanted to shine on the instrumental side. I started playing clarinet when I was in the fifth grade even though I dreamed of being a drummer. I drove my parents crazy banging on the table with spoons from a very early age.

The journey of my musical life began with my first solo at six singing “All I Want for Christmas is my two Front Teeth” at our church Christmas program. In the seventh grade, after switching to Bass Clarinet, I played Alfred Hitchcock’s theme earning a “I” rating. As a freshman in high school I took a clarinet solo to contest, forgot over half of it, and was scarred for life with lack of memorization skills. For the remainder of high school I played in small ensembles in order to go to contest. Yet, one of my favorite pieces of band literature in high school became H. Owen Reed’s La Fiesta Mexicana with a 40 bar bass clarinet solo.

As I progressed, I excelled in 4-H, volleyball, softball, and band. I received the John Phillip Sousa Band Award at the end of my senior year. I was trying to decide if I wanted to major in physical education or music before entering college. From the time I was a youngster I helped my grandmother, who taught school for 35 years, to grade papers. I knew I wanted to become a teacher like her. I entered Central Missouri State University in 1972 graduating in 76 receiving my Bachelor in Music Education degree.

One of the strongest confidence builders in my youth outside of school was being in 4-H, Girl Scouts, and the Order of Rainbow for Girls. I was able to establish organization skills, speaking skills, and leadership skills thru holding different offices in these organizations. When I won the state 4-H Public Speaking contest, winning a trip to National 4-H Club Congress, I began to realize I had responsibilities to my community and beyond.

I taught band and choir for eight years in three different school districts in Missouri. I was working very hard with extra ensembles, marching band, concert band, choirs, refereeing volleyball games, and going to school to get my Master’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, which I completed in 1982. Yet, I began to realize I wasn’t a happy person. I was struggling with my vocal chords, feeling sick all the time, and had no energy. My world crumbled around me when I asked myself the question “Why are you yelling at the kids all the time? If you were in your band would you want that?” My expectations in life were totally stressing me out. I was falling apart mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I left teaching for what I thought was going to be forever, went west to Yellowstone, then back to Missouri to work in a group home. I had experienced an emotional burnout which I wouldn’t wish on anyone and knew I was going to have to readjust my focus.

In 1985 I came to Colorado via the resort circuit of Long’s Peak Inn in Estes Park and Peaceful Valley Lodge. For six months I worked hard to clear my head, reflect, and began to explore new possibilities. In January 1986 I saw an ad in the Denver Post advertising a counseling job at Fort Morgan High School. I applied and in February 1986 I began a new journey as a Guidance Counselor. My experiences at FMHS led to helping to start a new group called Singers Limited, as well as what I consider a part of my legacy, organizing the Fort Morgan Community Band. My 6 1/2 years at FMHS and then 6 1/2 years at Morgan Community College gave me many friends, strong church connections, and development in my passion within music. I began to realize it was a better match to use music as my vocation and counseling as my profession.

In 1997, I became the School to Career Regional Director, serving 46 school districts in Northern Colorado and establishing business partnerships with career education. I moved to Greeley in 1998, tried out for the Greeley Chorale singing an alto solo from the Messiah. I was scared to death because it had been since college days that I had auditioned for anything. When I was accepted into the chorale I was thrilled but immediately had a motorcycle accident and was fearful I wouldn’t be able to sing in my first concert due to absences related to my injuries. My chorale colleagues quickly recognized that I was serious about my dedication to making music. They became family with phone calls of encouragement toward my recovery.

My twenty year involvement within the chorale has included trips to China, Italy, and Greece. About ten years ago I became the Community Outreach and Family Concerns person for the chorale. Community Outreach involves coordinating some of our outside singing engagements such as Potato Days, Christmas Caroling, Patriotic events, and others as needs arise. The Family Concerns portion of this job relates to caring for our members. With such a large group we have been affected with life experiences that sometimes require food, special encouragements, or needs. It ranges from deaths, births, hospital stays, car ride assistance to appointments, or whatever is called for to assist the members of our Chorale Family.

I wouldn’t trade my Chorale Family for anything. This organization has brought me a great life adventure in making wonderful music such as Carmina Burana, Rutter’s Gloria, Gaelic Blessing, and so many more pieces. BUT most importantly, terrific supportive friends whom I now call family.

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