The music room didn’t have any instruments except for an old piano.
Cindy McCormick had begun her teaching career by crossing the picket line at an eastern Indiana elementary school, where the teachers were on strike. Her husband, Tim, crafted 30 pairs of rhythm sticks out of dowel rods for the children.
“When I started, we had a singing book and a piano and that’s what music was, you would go and sing,” McCormick said.
By the time she retired in December after 42-1/2 years in the classroom, teaching music had evolved into introducing children to the language of music. It’s a lifelong passion for the daughter of teachers who met her husband at a Montgomery County Civic Band concert.
A native of Putnam County, McCormick learned to play instruments from her grandfather, a vaudeville musician known as Windy. Her mother, Malinda Zenor, was an elementary music teacher in Bainbridge and her father, Carl, taught history at Indianapolis Public Schools.
McCormick taught in Connersville, where her future superintendent Dr. Shawn Greiner was one of her first students, and replaced her mother when she retired. She also directed the choir at North Putnam High School, where she had graduated.
McCormick spent most of her career at South Montgomery, where she taught and directed school bands in New Market and Waveland. At a Christmas program in Waveland one year, Santa Claus brought a puppy to a family that had lost their dog in a house fire.
“We did a lot of dance, a lot of movement, so we weren’t just sitting and singing songs out of a book anymore,” she said. “The kids were really immersing themselves in the making and creating and the feeling of music — all prior to COVID.”
When the pandemic hit, students could no longer share instruments or books to limit the spread of the virus. Students sang along with videos during her classes.
“The kids were very gracious about, ‘OK, we’ll get through this,’ but … I didn’t feel like I was teaching anymore,” McCormick said.
She praised teachers for finding ways to navigate the virus restrictions in their classrooms.
McCormick plans to continue playing in the Civic Band, which she conducted for nearly 20 years, and direct the handbell choir at her church.
“I have a lot of music left to make, it just might not be in a school setting,” she said.