Brenda Lyddane has shared her love of music with three decades of Madison children. It’s that passion for her subject that led to Lydanne being named Madison County Public School’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.
Born and raised in Fauquier County, Lyddane has always been fond of music. She said her father would sing to her when she was little. She received her first record player at the age of 4 and would sing along with all of the records.
“When I was 8 or 9 my cousin called the local radio station and entered me in a singing contest,” she said. “All contestants sang a song of their choice over the telephone. To my surprise it was my mother, a switchboard telephone operator, who received and transferred the ‘call’ from my grandmother’s house to the radio station. All of my mother’s co-workers were able to hear my rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘All Shook Up’ at her office!”
At age 10, Lyddane began taking piano lessons, became church organist at 13 and played for a funeral and a wedding on the same day at 15.
“My parents were extremely encouraging and supportive of my musical interests,” she said.
Once she began playing piano, Lyddane said she and her father would sing duets at community events.
“He loved sharing his love of music by singing and folk dancing with me,” she said.
Lyddane was also involved in music in the classroom. She said music was incorporated into the regular classroom in her elementary school with teachers sharing and exposing students to folk songs, fun songs and songs that could be sung in a round. She said students also played the song flute, similar to a recorder, in fourth grade. In fifth grade, Lyddane became a class song leader.
It was in sixth and seventh grades that Lyddane was exposed to her first music classroom teacher. The teacher would visit each classroom once a week and accompanied students on an autoharp, an instrument that Lyddane learned to play. Students were also able to join the school chorus.
Unfortunately, Lyddane said her music teacher, who also served as choral director, was killed in an automobile accident over the Thanksgiving break. She said the death had a devastating impact on she and her fellow classmates. When the new music teacher was hired, the students continued with their music learning, ultimately performing in a concert.
“I think it was during this period of my life that I first realized that I wanted to become an elementary music teacher,” Lyddane said.
She continued learning music in high school as a member of the glee club and other choirs including the a capella choir. She also took classes in music theory and music history, which she said prepared her for her freshman music theory class.
Taking piano lessons also helped with not only music theory, but also understanding the harmonic structure of songs she had heard her family sing and play from a young age.
“I am so grateful my piano teacher never stifled my ability to play ‘by ear,’ but encouraged me to do so as well as read the notation,” Lyddane said. “She even gave me the opportunity to teach piano lessons to some of her students during my high school junior and senior years.”
Following high school, Lyddane earned a B.S. Degree in music education from Radford University (then known as Radford College). While in college, she continued performing as part of Radford’s Pop Concert Choir, was a member of the honorary music sorority Mu Phi Epsilon and played the piano at Shakey’s Pizza Parlow and at Travelers’ Inn Supper Club. Television personality Willard Scott was a dinner guest during Lyddane’s opening night.
After graduation, Lyddane spent a year teaching in Loudoun, followed by four years in Fauquier until her husband’s job took her to Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, she taught part-time at a private school for a little over a year, before concentrating on raising her two children. But music wasn’t left behind. Lyddane spent the nearly 10 years in Pennsylvania teaching private piano lessons, playing the piano and organ and singing for numerous weddings and events.
Lyddane and her family then located to Madison County, where after a year, she was hired to teach elementary music to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. This year marks her 30th in the position. She works to instill a love of music into her students similar to the one she developed at that age.
“As a teacher my goal has always been to teach a balanced, comprehensive, sequential music program of study to my students,” Lyddane said. “This program includes active involvement in singing, playing instruments, moving, listening, and creating.
“My goal is to foster the talents, gifts, and ideas of all children of different learning styles in a caring environment and to encourage them to be life long learners,” she added. “It is my hope to spark an interest in and to instill a love of music in my students’ lives.”
She said she loves her job and watching students mature from kindergarten to adulthood is a gratifying reward. However, she said, even more rewarding is watching and listening to a first grade student sing a solo in a spring concert and later learning he studied at Julliard School of Music and debuted in opera and Broadway performances. She said having taught students who went on to pursue musical careers is also rewarding.
Lyddane said it’s an honor to be named teacher of the year.
“Receiving this award has been one of the most humbling experiences I have ever encountered,” she said. “Having had the privilege of teaching every public student in Madison County for the past 30 years is definitely a major accomplishment in itself. Thank you to all my colleagues and administrators for my having been nominated and subsequently having been named this year’s teacher of the year.”
When not teaching, Lyddane enjoys spending time with her husband, children, son-in-law and grandsons. She also enjoys playing the piano and organ, singing and being a member of, and accompanying, The Beulah Land Quartet.
The Madison County Teacher of the Year is chosen annually at the school division’s teaching, learning and caring awards. Recipients are named in each of the three categories with a teacher of the year chosen from the four teaching award winners. Lyddane was this year’s teaching award winner for Waverly Yowell Elementary School. Jarratt Caldwell received the teaching award for Madison Primary School, Devin Milbourne for Wetsel Middle School and Mary Davis for Madison County High School.