Kranz focuses choir on strengths of unity

Choir teacher Eliott Kranz believes in the power of the Swahili proverb, “Umbutu,” which means “I am because we are.”

Digging through the papers on his desk, choir teacher Eliott Kranz stumbled upon a sticky note with one, singular word written upon it: Umbutu.

The Swahili proverb roughly translates to the phrase, “I am because we are.” This short expression is what inspired Kranz to focus on a theme of togetherness and community in his choir classroom during the 2016-2017 school year.

The term exemplifies values Kranz wants to encourage in his classroom on a daily basis: community, togetherness and family. He aims to use the word as a theme or talking point to drive his students to build a loving community through their music.

Kranz explained his take on the importance of emphasizing community in order to bring about a more positive change in the world.

“All of the actions that we do in class affect each other, but more importantly, they affect the actions and the feelings of those we bring our music to,” Kranz said. ”As an individual person, your actions and words affect others, but when we do things as a group, we can create change or change things in a bigger way than a single individual can.”

Throughout the year, Kranz has worked carefully to select songs that reflect the choir’s theme of togetherness. His music selection illustrates the positivity and peace that he hopes to see his students spread into the world someday.

“This year I have tried to find music that talks about or touches on aspects of bringing peace, building community, coming together and being a family because there is so much divisiveness in the world right now, and there has been throughout much of this school year,” Kranz said.

Sophomore Jonas Walther has enjoyed the emphasis on unity. “I like how he picks music not just for the notes but for the story behind it. When we know what we are singing about, it helps us feel more passionate about it, and that shows through our singing,” he said.

Senior Makenzie Nichols agreed. “There is always an important message behind the music we sing. I always learn a lesson from the pieces.”

Kranz has selected several new pieces, all reflecting hope, love and peace, to debut on the choir’s spring break trip this March. Titles such as “Prayer of the Children,” “Grace Before Sleep” and “We Can Mend the Sky” will all be featured.

While Kranz’s goal may be to impact the lives of those in the world’s community, he has already done so much for the students in his very own classroom.

Senior Sarah Venem said Kranz’s teaching style has positively impacted her life.

“He always makes people feel welcome, whether it’s greeting people as they walk in the door, smiling at them throughout the day or teasing them during class. Mr. Kranz makes you feel like part of his choir family. He makes you feel important, loved, appreciated and wanted. I’m really going to miss that sense of family and community from the choir room and seeing Mr. Kranz every day.”

Similarly, senior Noah Wolf said he appreciates the love that Mr. Kranz shows for his students on a daily basis.

“Mr. Kranz will always listen to whatever you have to say, whether about the choir, your life or news in the sports world, and even with those two things, it’s very clear that he wants every singer in the choir to improve, as well as the choir as a whole, and will stop at nothing to get the best from his students.”

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