Inspirational Feature By J1 Reporter Emma Herold
Since she was in kindergarten, Miss Cathy Pruitte has been singing for more than half a century. Inspired to start singing by her mother, who had a beautiful voice, she would go into the first grade classroom at Holy Name and sing to the older kids.
Pruitte attended Holy Name from kindergarten through high school, where she sang in a mixed choir, as well as some small ensembles and quartets. She was very involved in music during her high school years and participated in the musicals. Pruitte’s brother was also in the choir at Holy Name.
One teacher in particular, Sister Callista McNamara, from Holy Name inspired Pruitte to become a music teacher. “Right when I started college, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a singer, but I got interested in teaching,” Pruitte said. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from College of Saint Mary and her Master’s degree from University of Missouri-Kansas City. Pruitte also did music studies at Drake University, Eastern Michigan University, and University of Denver.
After graduating from college, Pruitte student taught at Omaha South High School. After that, she taught music in Council Bluff’s public school district at Kirn Junior High School for nearly 15 years. Pruitte instructed mixed groups of choirs, as well as the show choir: “The Buttons and Beaus.”
Meanwhile at Marian, a conflict came up. The music teacher, Sister Sharon, was leaving and they needed a replacement. “… They asked me and I had mixed feelings about it at first because I really liked where I was, but it was kind of like coming home to the Servants of Mary because they were at Holy Name, too,” Pruitte said.
In the school year of 1980-1981, Pruitte taught her first year at Marian. “It was really tough because only about 12 girls were in choir,” she said. Pruitte knew there had to be more girls in the school with a voice than that. She went around asking why girls weren’t in choir and they replied, “Because I can’t sing.” This statement inspired Pruitte to start the Last Chance Sing class at Marian, where it developed confidence in several girls’ talent.
Her favorite part of teaching music, is simply, “The students.” She really cared for all the individuals that walked into her classroom. Pruitte made it clear as a teacher that one goal was to have the student leave with a better idea of music than before they took choir. She made sure all of her students had proper singing etiquette to prepare them for competitions. This really paid off. As a result, the Select Women’s Choir received gold in their competition and ultimately was invited to perform in New York City in 2008. It was a true honor for Pruitte, accompanist, Miss Christy Edris, and the Select Women’s Choir. Miss Lauren Morrissey, current choir teacher, was involved in the Select Women’s Choir that year.
Even after that, the Select Women’s Choir continued to consistently receive gold. Pruitte was big on facial expression and annunciation of vowels, which contributed to the choir’s constant success.
In May of 2015, Pruitte retired after 35 years of being the choir teacher at Marian. Many of her students were sad to see her go, but appreciative of the hard work that she put into her many years of service. “She improved my singing ability and I was sad when I found out that she was retiring, but I was excited to see what the next year would bring,” choir student Cora Ridenour said.
Teaching music for 50 years, Miss
Cathy Pruitte has touched the lives of many.
By sharing her musical inspiration, several girls have come through her classroom doors as timid singers and left the stage as confident performers.