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It’s one thing to love your job, another to love all three of your jobs. District 91 music teacher Maria Carini feels blessed working with students at Garfield and Grant-White schools. She also directs a children’s church choir in Downers Grove. Maria’s third gig is singing opera and she is starring in a production of The Pirates of Penzance in October.

Maria comes by her operatic roots honestly – her opera buff parents are from Sicily and her father serenades restaurant patrons with his accordion. When she was young, Maria would have her dad make up melodies on the piano.

“I would use a turkey baster as a microphone and make up a song,” Maria said, “I always knew I’d be in opera.”

Hailing from Brookfield, Wis., Maria received her master’s degree in vocal performance from LSU, where she roomed with fellow voice student Elizabeth Perryman.

Liz’s late father, Bruce Perryman, the longtime music teacher at Hauser Junior High School in Riverside, taught Donna Budil during his student-teaching days. Life came full circle when Liz student-taught under Budil in Forest Park. Later, when Budil was looking for a new music teacher for the district, Liz recommended her old roomy.

That was seven years ago. Maria is now one of the district’s two full-time music teachers. As for the aspiring singers she teaches, Maria suggests they put off vocal lessons until their voices begin to mature in high school. She prefers that they study an instrument, or join a children’s choir instead. She teaches them to sing on pitch, without straining their voices.

She’s also trying something new this year. Along with music teacher Meeghan Dooley, Maria is forming fourth- and fifth-grade choirs at her schools. The combined school choirs will blend their voices for a spring concert. The district already puts on winter musicals like The Xmas Files and Melton and the Warm-Hearted Snowman.

Maria has always resisted appearing in musicals.

“Opera is more challenging than any other singing,” Maria said. “You have to be very disciplined.”

Somehow, Maria failed to learn Italian growing up but she has taken diction classes for singing in German, French and Italian. She is a lyric coloratura, playing parts that require a very high voice and fast phrasing. Her favorite opera is La Traviata but she’s also appeared in The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus and The Magic Flute.

Opera might be a hard sell to students but Maria’s charges enjoy hearing her sing in class and listening to her CDs. She further introduces them to opera by taking field trips to the Lyric Opera’s children’s productions.

“Music teachers keep classical music and folk music alive,” Maria said.

To catch this local lyric coloratura onstage Oct. 10, Oct. 12 and Oct. 16 in Evanston, call (847) 251-8767.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.