Krista Hwang’s musical career started in kindergarten when she joined the choir. Her love of music continues to fill her days as she is now the third grade through 12th grade choir teacher and middle school theater teacher at Prospect Ridge Academy. She’s been with PRA for 10 years and is in her 22nd year of teaching.
Arts education is thriving at PRA and performance arts provide unique opportunities for students, Hwang said. As the students come together to create something, she said they are able to connect with each other in a collaborative way that is unique in education. Teaching music and theater also provides Hwang with unique opportunities to connect with the students.
“In the arts, you are making something very personal and combining that with everyone else in the ensemble to create your performance,” she said. “When you have that personal creative effort happening it allows space for vulnerability and connection. Plus, I work with these students for years and I really have a chance to get to know them.”
Hwang said the performance arts engage the brain and create connections between experiences and knowledge. Research has shown that making music causes your brain to use both hemispheres at the same time, and makes more lasting memories than any other activity.
“Music requires students to practice resiliency, delayed gratification, grit, teamwork, and achieving high standards,” she said. “In performance groups, good enough isn’t enough, we are always striving for excellence.”
Music filled the home that Hwang grew up in. Her parents sang, her dad played the trumpet, and her siblings were musical. Hwang also played the trumpet starting in third grade and continued through college. Band performances included tours everywhere from Texas to Alaska. Hwang has fond memories of her school performances.
“My favorite role in a musical was the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd, my junior year of college. It’s a fun role, playing a crazy woman no one believes, and was the largest role I received in college,” she said. “I recorded three CDs as part of the Wind Symphony at Concordia, and the process of getting a 90-piece wind ensemble to a professional recording level was really exciting.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in education from Concordia University, she earned her master’s degree in Creative Arts in education from Lesley University. Hwang also received her Kodaly certification from the Colorado Kodaly Institute at CSU. She began her teaching career as a fourth grade classroom teacher who also taught middle school music and choir at a small parochial school before deciding to teach music full time.
Now Hwang directs four PRA choirs. The Miner Chorus, a choir for third through fifth grades, meets before school. The Fifth Grade Ensemble Choir consists of students who chose choir as their fifth grade music ensemble. Then both the middle school and high school have choirs. Hwang puts together multiple concerts per year including a fall concert for the middle school and high school choirs, winter concerts for all four choirs, a festival concert for the middle and high school choirs, and a spring concert for all four choirs.
Teaching the middle school theater class and directing the middle school fall musical and high school spring musical fills out Hwang’s schedule. For the high school musical, Hwang said the direction team considers the talent of the students they expect to audition and then they select a show that matches the expected actors. She said they alternate between a production that will appeal to PRA’s K12 community, something like Mary Poppins, and a production that appeals to the secondary community, such as Spamalot.
Choosing the musical piece for the middle school is a somewhat easier, as Hwang said she has six abridged musicals that she produces in a rotation. Each musical gives a large number of students opportunities to perform. The middle schooler’s just finished their “Sound of Music” run and the high school has just completed auditions for “Fiddler on the Roof,” coming to the PRA stage this spring. But Hwang is already looking ahead to next year’s middle school musical.
“I’m really looking forward to next year’s musical for the middle school. We’re doing Newsies, which is a show I have loved since I was a kid, and I think it’s going to be a great addition to the middle school line up,” she said.
After 10 years at more performances than she can count, Hwang said it’s hard to pick one favorite memory. So instead she narrowed it down to three.
“I really had fun with my tap-dancing chimney sweep cameo in Mary Poppins,” she said. “Then getting to have live productions last year after a year and a half away because of COVID was special. But It is always exciting seeing my students who have grown up doing these productions stepping into their first leading role.”
Performing continues to be a part of Hwang’s life outside of PRA, as well. She sings with her church choir and regularly enters both singing and dance competitions. She’s also been in the cast of several shows at Jester’s Dinner Theater, including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Aida and Scrooge.
“It helps me in my teaching, because I know what it takes to reach a top performance level in my own work, and I face the same nerves they do,” she said.
By Amy G. Partain
PRA Communications Manager