A Musical Milestone

It was 1980 when DeEtta White met Joyce Jingle. Jingle was “brand new,” she recalls. “She was still jingling!”

White, a teacher at Madison Elementary at the time, was supposed to mentor Jingle. “She should’ve been MY mentor,” White said.

Jingle, who has taught music at Triadelphia Middle School since the fall of 1988, is marking a musical milestone this year: 25 years producing the school’s Spring Musical.

Jingle’s Spring Musical is a well-respected and highly anticipated event, with between 150 and 200 students involved in some manner each year.

That’s close to 5,000 sixth- through eighth-graders who have graced the stage during her tenure.

Some of these children would never have performed in front of an audience if not for Jingle’s encouragement.

“It never ceases to amaze me the talent she can pull out of these kids. Some kids you’d least expect it from – the quiet kids who get up there and belt out songs. It’ll blow you away,” said Janet Goddard, a paraprofessional in the special education department at TMS. She works with the student narrators in the Spring Musicals.

Vicki Flink, retired teacher and assistant principal at TMS agreed.

“She takes the talent of every child and brings it forth. … She brings out the best of every child and has high expectations,” she said.

“I’ll never forget one boy who told me, ‘I didn’t think I could do any of this, but Mrs. Jingle said I could. And I CAN,'” Flink recalled.

Nate Strasser, TMS class of 2001, exemplifies Flink’s observation. Strasser is a successful songwriter and musician.

A music director and studio musician in Nashville, he released his debut CD in 2012 and recently was accepted into a film scoring graduate program at the University of Southern California.

“Mrs. Jingle has had such a lasting impact on my life as well as so many others. She brought me out of my shell and first taught me how to express myself on stage in front of large crowds. My years in the TMS choir are some of my most cherished childhood memories,” Strasser said.

Many students, such as Strasser, have gone on to find success on stages around the country and the world. “To see the kids perform (some for the first time) and get excited to be on stage …” that’s important, Jingle said.

But the ones who become life-long supporters of the arts touch her heart just as much.

Tim Haught, class of 1996, fits that category. While not a performer, he still enjoys singing, a love instilled in him by Jingle.

“Chorus was a major part of my development as a person and something of a refuge for me and my friends in both middle and high school,” Haught said. Through those years, the choir room was essentially my home base, where I felt I could most be myself. … Whether she was encouraging my talent or making sure I stayed on the right path, she always made me feel like I mattered. Her influences made me comfortable with myself and kept me from worrying about the peer pressures and social influences of those years.”

Bill Sinclair, class of 2001, was a soloist back in his days at TMS. Living in Nashville and working in the health care industry, he still dabbles in the music world.

“Mrs. Jingle is the best teacher I’ve ever had … period! Nowadays, I’m able to use the creativity she encouraged me to develop in everything I do,” he said.

“Whether it is singing a demo or my day job, I affect people in a most positive manner. Incredible people like her only come around so often in life. I’m very glad I was able to be a small part of the many wonderful productions that Mrs. Jingle has produced at TMS.”

Jingle pointed out that she’s already on the second generation. “Some moms backstage helping were my students.” she said. “Janet Myers-Eikey has been an enormous help. Her daughter (Jordan Eikey) is in eighth grade.”

There have been at least 50 kids on stage in recent years whose parents she taught. “And maybe 50 I’m not aware of,” Jingle said.

Myers-Eikey was privileged to have Jingle as a music teacher in fourth, fifth and sixth grade at Madison Elementary. “I loved her, just loved her. She was great! She made music enjoyable.”

Myers-Eikey said her daughter “bawled her eyes out on stage” on the last night of this year’s musical, which was held April 10-12. “She couldn’t get through the last number. (Mrs. Jingle) is one of her favorite teachers.”

In fact, as Jordan’s little sister, Jessica, was taking a tour through Triadelphia – she’ll enter sixth-grade in the fall – Jordan pointed to Jingle’s classroom and told her, “That’s the best room at Triadelphia.”

And alumni come back year after year to support the younger students. Some kids come home from college and “pop in the DVD” of their performance, Jingle said. “One student, Dawn Barcus, who works at C.A. House Music, still remembers every step of every song.”

Sandra Chapman, whose three children have been part of the Spring Musicals, pointed out that “Mrs. Jingle’s program has brought great team-building, self confidence and wonderful opportunities to so many students year after year at Triadelphia Middle School. The ‘alums’ love to return and compare the latest program to their three years. All three of my children have enjoyed the experience tremendously. It’s definitely a highlight of the middle school years.”

Respected by her peers, Jingle is described by so many as “a hard worker.” Myers-Eikey said Jingle goes “above and beyond.”

“When you’re hired, you’re not required to produce these shows, and to give hours and hours of donated time. She gives 110 percent.” She also noted Jingle takes her eighth-grade chorus members to Cedar Point for music competition each year – also on her own time. Every year, they return home with high marks in that contest.

“When you go to Cedar Point and compete against charter schools that specialize in music, then you know she’s doing an amazing job.”

She pointed out that last year or the year before, the kids got a standing ovation at Cedar Point. “One teacher said, ‘Those kids were taught to sing,'” Myers-Eikey said.

Dan Criswell Sr. – who has videotaped the shows for 23 of the past 25 years, as well as taking care of other behind-the-scene jobs – commented, “She works so hard. She is there all the time! She edits the music, she casts the show, she picks the songs. She probably begins work on the next year’s show the day after the last show closes,” he said.

She may not actually begin the next day, but she does decide as the curtain closes that there will be another show.

“The minute the curtain closes, a student asks me, ‘What are we doing next year?’ The kids love it … the performance is worth it,” Jingle said.

“She works Saturdays, Sundays … I see her car over there (at the school) all the time! She’s not going to put on a show unless it’s the quality she’s used to. Joyce works 16-hour days,” Criswell said.

After seeing the 1990 show at the recommendation of his son’s music teacher, Criswell spent the next two years driving young Danny from their Clearview home to TMS – just so he could take music classes from Jingle. Criswell then got involved in the show and has been there ever since.

In fact, he’s organizing a tribute evening to celebrate Jingle’s 25 years. The celebration is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at the TMS auditorium.

“When I first came to Triadelphia, I had heard about the Spring Musicals,” eighth-grade English teacher Becky DiSaia said. “When sitting in the audience, I couldn’t believe these kids on the stage. It was breathtaking. I didn’t want to just be in the audience. I wanted to be a part of that.”

The next year, Jingle entrusted DiSaia to write the little skits for the narrators in between the musical numbers. The narrators are chosen from students who aren’t in the chorus.

“I’ve been able to watch these kids transform. We get to see our kids grow along with the kids in the choir. It reaffirms why I’m a teacher, to see this energy. There are lots of little miracles that happen along the way. I’m so lucky Mrs. Jingle has allowed me to be a part of this. I’ve learned so much from her.

“This is one project the whole school comes together for. There is so much good, positive energy,” DiSaia said.

Kyle Cook of Bellaire also considers himself lucky to have worked with Jingle.

A music education major at West Liberty University, Cook observed her classes last year. This spring, he was a student teacher in her classrooms, at his request.

“Mrs. Jingle is truly one of a kind. From the first day, it was ‘wow.’ She has such an influence on middle school kids. They love going to chorus. It’s hard to get middle school students to do anything!”

His time with Jingle was “such a rewarding experience,” he said.

“In my years of college, this is my best year. Ohio County is fortunate to have someone like Mrs. Jingle. She sets the bar. She sets high standards for her kids. I graduate in May, and when I go on, everything she taught me will go with me.

“I can honestly say I learned from the best. She is the best,” Cook said.

And Jingle’s mentor, White, recalls from their time together at Madison in the early 1980s, that even as a novice teacher she could get the kids motivated.

“I tell you what – she jumped in with both feet from the very beginning. She was full of life and full of ideas. Oh, the ideas! The kids learned, and they loved it. They loved learning.

“She has been kissed by the muse … because whatever she touches is perfect. That’s not to say she doesn’t work her buns off. She works hard. She tells the kids to do it, and they do it. She has the magic touch. The muse has touched her … no doubt in my mind.

“Boy that woman … I just love her so much. She’s just magnificent. Isn’t that a good word for her? I love her like a daughter,” White shared.

Jingle’s own daughter, Stephanie Jingle, rejoices in her mom’s influence on her life and echoed much of what others had to say.

“My mother is the most selfless person I know. She puts in hundreds of unpaid hours a year with her students. I’ve seen her change children’s life paths with the instillment of hard work, dedication and a love of music. I’ve worked with her in some fashion on every Spring Musical for 25 years, and every year it is a new, special project for her, designed specifically for the 150-plus kids participating. She is truly following her passion.

“I dance professionally in New York City now and teach dance five days a week, and I can tell you without a doubt that she is in the classroom with me every day. I do what I do because of her.”

As her daughter pointed out, Jingle’s students are her passion and her motivation.

Despite the hard work and the long hours, the show will go on. The 25th show held earlier this month – which she described as “special” – won’t be her last.

“I’ll do it until I run out of ideas, and I’m not out of ideas yet,” Jingle said.