Ries ignites love of music in children

By Sarah Redding

Oklahoma Christian University recently recognized a passionate and dedicated music teacher as outstanding alumna.

That teacher was Leah Ries, a perfect example of what a good teacher should be: in love with her subject and her students.

Leah earned a bachelor of music education from Oklahoma Christian in 1983 and completed a certification in Kodaly Music Education with an emphasis in choral conducting at the University of Oklahoma in 1989.

She has taught music for 29 years in Oklahoma and Minnesota, influencing many children along the way.

“Music touches places nothing else can reach and I am glad to be able to share that with others.” Leah Ries

Leah McDonald, whom Leah Ries taught from third to fifth grade, recalls her excitement at having a music teacher with the same first name.

“My elementary music teacher in first and second grade never remembered my name, and that was hurtful to me, because music was my favorite subject,” she said. “Mrs. Leah always remembered my name, and made music class more interesting and active.”

“Mrs. Leah” recognizes that she loves to ignite a spark – a love of music – in people.

“I love seeing children get excited about music. I get to teach music literacy and help bring the music to life,” she said. “Music teaches math, reading, language, history, art, and many other subjects, but it also teaches us so much more. It touches places nothing else can reach and I am glad to be able to share that with others.”

In addition to teaching in the elementary school setting, Leah serves as artistic director for the Mankato Children’s Chorus and directs the junior high and high school choirs plus a high school women’s ensemble that participates in state and national festivals, community events, and conferences.

Leah and her husband Barry live in Mankato, Minnesota, where they and their children lead a music-filled, bustling and rewarding life.

Her career seems to truly reflect what Confucius said: “Choose a job you love, and you never have to work a day in your life.” Music is certainly rewarding for Leah, but music education also comes with challenges.

“One of the biggest challenges is defending the need for music in our schools,” she said. “I have faced budget cuts in the past and I’m sure I will in the future. We need to continue to develop research that proves the educational and social benefits of music. We need to stand firm in our conviction that children need music as a way to learn to be a part of something positive and work with others toward a common goal.”