Have a happy retirement...

In her weekly column, Julie O'Leary recalls the influence a Ballincollig music teacher had on her, and wishes her a happy retirement.
Have a happy retirement...
An archive picture of Catherine Janeczek-Frost conducting pupils from Gael Chola¡ste Choilm, Ballincollig at the Schools Competition as part of the Choral Festival in City Hall, in recent years.

CATHERINE Frost retired from Coláiste Choilm after 27 years teaching. She was the queen of music while I was in school.

When I think of Ms Frost, I am transported back to some of my happiest times in my education. In her company, I was always really happy. When I was around her, we were singing, we were creating and all round having fun. She was the Director of the senior choir and musical director for any activity concerned with music in the school.

I don’t really remember when we met first, it just feels like we have known each other forever. She represented my escape from the bullies, my solace in the dark days and a realisation that true inclusion is definitely possible once you put your mind to it.

When we were in first year we put on a production of Ebenezer Scrooge at Christmas time and it was my first experience of having Catherine with her baton in front of the orchestra and directing all of us singers. Then, in second year, we were back again to put on The Wizard of Oz. I really wanted a part that time and I remember in my audition Catherine gave me her signature wink and encouraging smile. I always knew she was in my corner and she appreciated effort as much as a stellar performance. When I didn’t get a part that year, she told me my time would come.

In transition year I was delighted to graduate to the Senior Choir under Catherine’s wing, that’s truly how it felt. From warm up to a competition performance, Catherine was steady and scattered in the same breath. I loved that. She always seemed to be in a rush, squeezing the last bit of magic out of students, just in the nick of time every single time. There was a great adrenaline rush in that. I always sat in a chair when I sang at our lunchtime practices and Catherine would sit at the piano. She often caught my eye and I learned in later years that she looked to me for reassurance from time to time. I always told her, it would be grand in the end or on the night and it was.

I played Aunt Eller in our Transition year production of Oklahoma and I have a lasting memory of Catherine guiding me through particular lines of a challenging song. The stage was in darkness, I couldn’t see anyone except Catherine and her baton. She was like my beacon in my scary moment. All through my performance, my heart was racing but she kept me calm and was part of one of my favourite memories of all time.

In leaving cert, a trip was being organised by Catherine to Prague for a music and cultural exchange. In introducing the trip, she was very explicit about how anyone that was going to go had to be able to sing and play an instrument. This was to maximise our productivity and talent.

By default I didn’t play any instrument so leaving rehearsals that day I was deflated. I met Catherine moments later who smiled as only she can and invited me on the trip. When I questioned her motives she exclaimed that someone would have to keep her calm and that she was boss and felt I deserved to be on the trip. I cried with delight that night because at the time I’d have given anything to play an instrument but physically couldn’t and my wonderful teacher recognised that.

We had a ball in Prague and I loved her for her natural inclusive nature.

Happy retirement, Catherine!

More in this section

Sponsored Content