Source: Sherman Publications

Teacher's legacy lives on

by Trevor Keiser

February 22, 2012

Former Clarkston music teacher Grayce Warren passed from this life to the next on Jan. 28 at age 68, but the legacy she left behind will live on.

“It’s too bad her life was short, but what she left behind was certainly a treasured trove of knowledge and standards,” said long time friend and co-worker Barbara (“Ma”) Gibson. “It was a joy knowing her and having her for a friend.”

Fellow long-time friend and Clarkston High School teacher George White agreed.

“Grayce was a very dedicated, caring educator that was a surrogate mom to hundreds and we saw that reflected in the wonderful chorus that came to her funeral that celebrated the work she had done with them,” he said.

Warren was born in Negaunee, 180 miles past the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula. Coming from a poor family with parents who survived the depression, she learned a hard worth ethic from a young age that carried her through life.

“If you didn’t work for it you didn’t get it. If you didn’t have the money you didn’t buy it, there were no such things as credit cards,” she said in October 2011 Podcast interview with former student Shawn Smith. “If something was broke you learned to fix it, if you couldn’t fix it, you lived without it.”

Having a family that was musical in some form or fashion also instilled in her at a young age a love and desire for music, so deciding what she wanted to be when she grew up “was a decision she never had to make,” according to Warren. She knew in the third grade she wanted to become a music teacher. Education was something she was also taught to value.

“My parents said we don’t owe you anything but education,” Warren said in the Smith interview. “Then what you do with your education is up to you. You got the skills to do it with.”

Her father passed away her senior year of high school due to cancer. After graduating Negaunee High School, she went on to Northern Michigan University and was the second person to graduate from Northern with two majors in Music, one as a Mezzo-Soprano vocalist as well as the pipe organ. A month after graduating college her mother passed away from a stroke. It was at that point she put all she had into a new car that she bought headed to a job interview in Clarkston with only $150 in her wallet and everything she owned in that car.

Warren taught music 32 years for Clarkston schools before retiring in 1997. In that time she not only taught choir, but also assisted “Ma Gibson” in the schools musicals.

“Her help and her knowledge of music were unlimited as far as putting on very good shows the audience could enjoy through the years,” Gibson said.

Warren was known for holding her students to the reach the highest standard possible, not only in music, but in life. Some famous “Words of Wisdom by Warren” include “Excellence is a habit,” “Good rehearsals make for good performances,” “Talent does not make up for hard work,” and “Success comes from doing well every day, not by setting out to accomplish success.”

Kim Koerber Hill, class 1983 said “she was a great lady who loved teaching, and taught us all some good life lessons as well as a passion for music.”

“The fond memories of Madrigal singers and four years of Musicals will always be a treasure in my mind and in the background I can hear Grayce Warren voice,” Hill said. “She should have been proud. She did make a difference.”

David Watson, class of 1980 agreed.

“Grayce loved music and teaching her young choir students was a passion of hers,” he said. “You could see it on her face when we would get it right, she would almost be in tears.”

One of Watson’s greatest memories was when she directed the Madrigals to sing at a “Welcome Home” party at the high school when he came home from the hospital after a life altering diving accident that left him paralyzed.

“The Madrigal Singers serenaded my return,” Watson said. “It made the evening very special.”

One of Pandora (Watson) Keiser’s favorite memories was singing the Lord’s Prayer at the capital as the opening prayer for State Representatives meeting.

“That was something traditional we did and brought out the best in all of us at that time,” she said. “It was bringing the Lord into the meetings and our small group. It was just a very moving inspirational time.”

“She put a song in our hearts and a smile on our faces . . . that’s even when she was trying to teach us how to play the piano,” said Clarkston News Assistant Publisher and Class of 1981 Clarkston Graduate Don Rush.

Outside of teaching Warren was proud to have sung with the Rackham Choir. She also enjoyed knitting, sewing, cooking, her English Garden and traveling. She traveled all the way to New Zealand to visit a former student.

John Warren described his aunt as a “very independent woman and very self capable woman.”

“She did what she wanted to do the way she wanted to do it through her entire career.” he said. “That really defines what she did and she did it well.”