Thanks, Dad

My memories of the college campus where I earned my two degrees stretch back far earlier than my years as an actual student there. My dad started teaching at Brigham Young University about three years before I was born, and my youth included visiting him in his office, attending BYU basketball and football games, going to the school of music’s opera productions and choral concerts, seeing movies in the on-campus movie theater, and eating lunch with my dad at the famous CougarEat.

All of that early exposure to higher education had a tremendous impact on me. I thought my dad had the coolest job ever. College life seemed so exciting. I couldn’t wait until the day I would get to experience it as an actual college student.

Even more impactful than the trips to campus, though, was the way my dad talked about his job, his classes, his students, and especially everything he was studying, teaching, and writing about. He was a voracious reader and prolific writer who wrote over 60 articles and four books related to his field (family sociology). Around the dinner table or while driving me to rehearsals or dance practice, Dad talked about the latest book he was reading or idea he was thinking about.

In addition to inspiring all six of his children to read, write, study, and go to college, he was also our biggest cheerleader and believed we could do whatever we set our minds to. He would drop anything to serve us, especially if it meant helping us accomplish our goals. He has cheered me on into adulthood, traveling to attend every show I appeared in and reading everything I wrote.

In fact, my dad has been my assistant editor non grata who reads and edits every editorial before it goes to press—until now. This is the first editorial he won’t read, because he suffered a massive stroke just days before I started writing this. He passed away one week later, at the age of 84, a full and wonderful life behind him and grand adventures ahead of him.

In addition to marking up my “From the Editor” piece before each issue, Dad would also call me after he received his Classical Singer copy in the mail. Sometimes it was to talk over an article he found particularly interesting. Other times it was to ask me about an element of the classical singing industry he wanted to better understand.

As I have completed my final review of this issue in recent days, I have wondered which articles my dad might have called me about this time. Perhaps the article on the benefits of choral singing (p. 84), since he was always interested in science catching up with what others already knew. Or maybe the article on Indiana University Opera Theatre’s 70th anniversary (p. 66), because of his own 35-year career in academia. Or, possibly, he might have wanted to talk about Mark Watson’s article (p. 56) mostly to find out, as a musical neophyte, what a trill actually is!

Perhaps it’s because of my dad’s professorial influence that I have always loved the fall with its back-to-school excitement and new beginnings. This year it’s significantly different, as a new normal of life without Dad sets in. But there is so much beauty to be found even in the midst of the sorrow—the beauty of a life well lived, the beauty of family relationships that were forged and continue because of him, and the beautiful memories of all he showed me and taught me.

And right up there at the top are a love of learning, a passion for writing, and a belief in myself that I can do anything. Thanks, Dad. Until we meet again.

Sara Thomas

Sara Thomas is editor of Classical Singer magazine. She welcomes your comments.