06/09/14 — On a high note

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On a high note

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 9, 2014 1:46 PM

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Choral Director Dallas Montague reminisces on the past 13 years of teaching at Eastern Wayne High School Wednesday. Many successful singers have taken chorus under Montague's direction.

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"Basically what I have done is just helped to give some direction to the students. ... They have done the work themselves. I have just given them the tools." -- Dallas Montague

Opera singer Madeline Edwards, at age 11, won CBS-TV Early Show's national competition, "Living Room ... Live! Kids" and is now a Kenan music scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Alden Pridgen, entering her final year at the N.C. School of the Arts, has sung at Carnegie Hall and next year is slated to perform at the Lincoln Center.

Miss Goldsboro 2014 Emily Tucker is preparing to compete for the title of Miss North Carolina later this month.

Majesty Rose was in the top 10 on the recent season of "American Idol" and will go on tour this summer.

Hailey Best was crowned Miss North Carolina in 2011.

What do these five young women have in common?

They are all singers, all from Goldsboro and all attended Eastern Wayne High School.

And their choral director at the school was Dallas Montague, who will retire from the school system July 1.

"I have been very fortunate to have had some good students," he said. "Basically what I have done is just helped to give some direction to the students. I have not really done anything for them. They have done the work themselves. I have just given them the tools."

The truth is, he hadn't really started out to be an educator, he said.

He had worked off and on at Falcon Children's Home as music director and house parent.

"I finished my degree in 1984," he recalls. "There was a period of time from 1984 to 2000 that I had a bad experience with some things in education.

"In 2000, my good friend, Wesley Jarman, whose wife was principal at Eastern Wayne Middle, called me to tell me they were needing somebody here. The church where I was working had some setbacks. I decided to investigate the job at the school."

He was hired by then-principal Morris Kornegay to work at Eastern Wayne High School.

"I was 50 years old when I started here, actually 49, and turned 50 that same year," he said. "I'm 62 now."

In a relatively short span of time, he has amassed some great memories -- and not just of students who have realized renowned success.

Music, he says, is beneficial for whatever field a person might enter.

"If the kids will avail themselves of what we're doing in the classroom, it will actually help them in their math skills and science," he said.

He loves teaching music, he says, whether a music theory class or working with a chorus or concert choir.

And while the reward comes in seeing the growth of the students, it is not lost on him that he has crossed paths with some incredible local talent -- some genetic and others simply raw and natural.

His former students sing his praises, too.

"Madeline, when I first heard her, when she was on the CBS Early Show, I knew she was in the (Eastern Wayne) middle school. I was just praying to God that she didn't go somewhere else. I was very fortunate to have her here. Madeline is one of those success stories that you hold dear."

His students sing the praises of their former teacher.

"Mr. Montague was by far the most dedicated teacher I have ever had," Madeline said. "He invested so much time and energy into his job and his students.

"His passion for sharing music with kids is quite inspirational. I can't thank him enough for all the opportunities he gave me during my time at Eastern Wayne."

Alden, who graduated from EWHS in 2009, also expressed her gratitude.

"Performance-wise, he was great about finding things for us to perform in the community," she said, adding that it extended even into her college years. "When I was at Meredith, I was in an all-women's acappella chorus and he made an opportunity for my group to come and perform while we were on tour in North Carolina. That was kind of neat to be able to come and perform and show the kids (at Eastern Wayne) where I was in my journey and what they could move into.

"He's certainly a fantastic teacher. It saddens me to know that other students that go through the music program will not have the same opportunities that I had."

Montague enjoys keeping tabs on his former students, he said.

"My kids know as long as they're in my class they cannot 'friend' me (on Facebook) but once they graduate, that's one way I keep in touch with my former students," he said.

July 1 is his official retirement date.

"But when I walk out of here June 12, that's it," he said with a chuckle. "I'm excited. I'm not leaving without having something else to go to. I have a CDL (commercial driver's license). I will probably be driving for a company in Wilson, so I will be doing some tour bus driving."

His days as a music director will not be entirely over, though.

"I work at a small church in Kenly as choir director, with seven, eight people in the choir, mostly senior citizens, but they seem happy with what I'm doing there and I'm happy with them," he said. "I think it's just a good fit.

"I'm not going to sit down and play checkers once I leave here. I'm going to stay active."