Retiring music teacher helps Milton students shine
MILTON “Shine, shine, shine,” the children sang onstage Wednesday, dressed in their holiday best.
And shine is what they did, thanks to the teaching and prompting of Jane LeFevre.
Each child in the third-grade holiday concert at Milton West Elementary School got his or her own role, from playing an instrument to singing a solo. Two students even dressed like penguins for the “Penguin Polka.”
“Mrs. LeFevre has been able to bring out the talent in every child and to truly develop talent in children who have exceptional abilities,” Milton West Principal Carol Meland said.
That’s why Meland is sad to be losing LeFevre at the end of the school year. LeFevre is retiring in June after 17 years with the Milton district and 43 years teaching music in Rock and Walworth counties.
This week marks the last time she will direct students in holiday concerts at Milton West and Consolidated elementary schools.
LeFevre has been able to bring out skills in children that others might not think them capable of, whether it’s singing in harmony at third grade, performing opera in elementary school or playing complicated piano music in kindergarten.
She believes in aiming music at the higher-level students, confident they will bring up the quality in all of the children, she said.
“I’ve always known kids are really, really smart,” she said. “They can do amazing things.”
Her blue eyes light up as she talks about vocal music and its power to express emotion and make everyone equal.
“There’s nothing like it,” she said. “It’s your own body that expresses the sound, and you can really express the emotions.”
LeFevre didn’t have much more than her own voice when she learned music in a one-room schoolhouse growing up. The students’ only music instruction came through a radio program called “Let’s Sing.”
Things weren’t much more advanced when she got her first teaching job in Darien, she said.
“I had no CDs, no tape recorders, no copy machines, no aides or secretaries,” she said. “It was just the kids and me, but I loved it.”
In Darien, she led a sixth-grade a cappella group that performed for nursing homes and in competitions. Two of the students went on to become music teachers.
She stopped teaching in schools to raise her children, but she continued teaching piano privately for many years. She later returned to teaching in Edgerton and Milton.
Her husband, Larry LeFevre, taught music in the Janesville School District. He died in 2008.
“He was my partner in music,” she said.
In 2000, LeFevre put together a show called “A Century of Children’s Songs” that included performances from every Milton West student and staff member, right down to the custodians. Each segment focused on a different decade of the 20th century.
Parents and grandparents at Wednesday’s show said the school will miss LeFevre’s passion and skill.
Diane Reddy has watched her granddaughter, Alexis Boston, perform in every holiday show since kindergarten, she said.
“It’s just excellent what (LeFevre) does with kids,” she said. “I know they’re going to miss her.”