“In some ways, this job has been the fulfillment of a dream for me, something I never thought would be possible.”
— Julia Foster, of Craig, on her career as an instructional aide and accompanist at Moffat County High School and Craig Middle School
The story of how Julia Foster got where she is today sounds commonplace at first.
The usual career twists are there.
Foster, now an instructional aide for Moffat County High School and Craig Middle School, studied to be an English teacher before she came to Craig with her husband, Steve, nearly 40 years ago. In 1999, she found herself in the aide’s position where her job included playing accompaniment for the schools’ choir, band and theater departments.
As she reflects on her upcoming retirement, the memories are there, too.
“I will miss the kids,” said Foster, 61. “I will miss them very much.”
So, too, is the acknowledgement that another stage in life awaits. It’s time for Foster to slow down, she said, and leave the closely scheduled world behind.
It’s only when Foster begins thinking about how music shaped her young life that a deeper, more nuanced story emerges.
“In some ways, this job has been the fulfillment of a dream for me, something I never thought would be possible,” she said.
Foster earned her degree in English education from John Brown University in 1972 because it was the practical thing to do, she said.
But music was her first and deepest love, even before she knew the job she holds now existed.
“There was always music in my home,” Foster said. “My dad sang terribly off key, but he always sang.
“I think I associate music with happiness because I grew up in a very happy home."
Foster wasn’t keen to take center stage, which made accompaniment a perfect fit.
“I like being in the background,” she said. “I like the focus being on somebody else.”
Her position on stage is easily overlooked, but it’s the crucial bedrock to a performance, said Heather Dahlberg, MCHS theater and choir teacher.
“There is a high musical aptitude that’s definitely needed for a good accompanist because that’s really what holds the choir together,” unless the music is a cappella, she said.
Foster, along with MCHS Principal Thom Schnellinger, interviewed Dahlberg for the job and also provided critical background knowledge after she took the position, she said.
“Because she’d worked with this department so long and worked with the (school) district so long, I think that she definitely wanted to see somebody come in that would take care of these students,” Dahlberg said.
Handling the workload and staying fresh on a wide range of musical genres, from Renaissance and classical to pop and jazz, makes Foster’s position anything but easy.
“It’s definitely a job where you have to multi-task,” especially during the winter, when multiple music events are gearing up at once, Dahlberg said.
So, what makes the job worth it?
Foster’s answer was almost as immediate as her smile.
“I love being with the kids,” she said.
She helped students prepare for solos and often brought them cookies as a reward for a good performance, earning her the unofficial title of “choir grandma,” Dahlberg said.
Foster’s last time accompanying a large concert was May 8, and now the nearly retired aide is thinking of what’s next.
Visiting the couple’s grown children — Scott, 36; Kevin, 33; David, 29; and Bryan, 27— and spending time with her husband of almost 40 years is high on the list, she said.
Foster paused when asked about the legacy she leaves at CMS and MCHS.
She hopes she’s taught students to love music, she said finally.
And she hopes they see her love wasn’t reserved solely for notes on a scale, but instead extended to the young singers and musicians she helped prepare.
“I hope they see that I really care about each one of them,” she said.
Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.