Ann Bryant: Her Legacy Lives in Music
Many people in the Bridge City community had Ann Bryant as the elementary teacher who introduced them to music education. Bryant taught many generations of students throughout her tenure at Hatton Elementary School.
Jennifer Clarke – for The Record
President Gerald Ford once said, “Music education opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them — a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human involvement.” Many educators work tirelessly dedicating their lives to the development of their students, but it is rare to find a public servant so ingrained in her community that her impact spans generations, and having taught her students, their children, and their grandchildren, Ann Bryant kept music alive in Bridge City.
Many people in this community had Mrs. Bryant in elementary for their introduction to music education. Her commitment as an educator did not go unnoticed. Courtney McKinney of Bridge City recalls “being in her class showed me how much fun music can be,” and Mrs. Bryant cared for the whole of her students, “she even let me borrow a costume for Halloween from her stash in the back because I didn’t have one.” She impacted the lives of countless children who upon hearing of her passing felt real grief at the loss of such a wonderful person. And Mrs. Bryant continued to bring the gift of music to children even after leaving education. She taught many children to play piano and appreciate music as a whole.
Mrs. Bryant’s legacy will continue to be felt through the many students who passed through her doors. Bobby Orozco of Bridge City was heavily impacted by Mrs. Bryant, and continues her legacy of music today, “As a former piano student of Ann Bryant, I can say without a doubt that she has been the foundation of making me the seasoned pianist that I am today. Her love for music education is one of no others. Looking back, I can’t fathom her love, patience, and kindness that she has had for her students. I wasn’t particularly the student that spent all of my time practicing, but the encouragement that she patiently gave me has given me a future in music.” Orozco is not alone. McKinney suggests that Mrs. Bryant is “the reason I went into music education at McNeese State University.” Mrs. Bryant paved the way for the futures of many musicians from the local community.
It was perhaps her love of music that was contagious, but her love for her students was equally important. She taught them more than musical notes, like any great teacher, she taught them that the composition of music consists of the world around them. “I vividly remember my time in her piano studio, the music we played together, guild pieces we chose together, and her stopping our lesson to look at the cardinals eating from her bird feeder outside of her window,” says Orozco.
And because of her commitment and dedication to music and education, many gifted artists will continue as her legacy. “I pursued music after high school, and I can remember the day that I came to her house to tell her. She was thrilled and had many encouraging words for me as I was stepping into something that she has spent her life in,” Orozco notes. McKinney also had the opportunity to let Mrs. Bryant know she would be continuing her future in music. She “was given the chance last year to tell her that she was the reason for me entering music education,” says Courtney McKinney, “She smiled and lit up and seemed genuinely pleased to hear that.”
When someone whose impact reverberates across geography and generations is lost, it is natural that the community will pause and reflect. McKinney notes, “she was a fabulous teacher and would always play the piano for us as well. She was amazing.” Her contributions to Bridge City were significant. “As a child, I only saw her as my piano teacher, I’m almost ashamed that 25 years later, I see and understand her skill and performance level as well as her accomplishments in music and more importantly the impact that she’s had on our town of Bridge City. I can’t imagine the number of students that she has taken in over her years and as a pianist, the opportunity to fulfill such a task is astonishing,” recalls Orozco.
And as her students go on to fulfill their futures in lives that spread the love and appreciation of music to others, Mrs. Bryant’s contributions will continue. “My wife, Jessica Orozco, and I are currently pursuing something big in my music career that I know Mrs. Bryant would be overwhelmed to hear that she’s in every inspired note,” Orozco says, “She has always been my safe haven in Bridge City, especially since I’ve been gone, and I can only imagine her sitting on my right side every time I sit behind the piano. I will always cherish my time with her and the music she has shared with me, it has truly been the foundation of who I have become.”
As a community mourns the passing of Ann Bryant, and stories are told and memories shared, perhaps all are reminded that “you are the music while the music lasts,” (T.S. Elliot), and her students will ensure that she lives on as they continue to share music with future generations.