A Conversation With Nancy Remkus

Nancy Remkus

The retired Sag Harbor Elementary music teacher, whose three decades at the school has made her something of a living legend in the community, is launching a Kids Community Peace Chorus. Ms. Remkus opened up about the inspiration for and goals of the new program, which kicks off on April 19.

First of all, kids and singing. Is there really a sound more beautiful than that?

I don’t think so. I taught at Sag Harbor Elementary School for 31 years, and almost 10 of those were spent teaching general music, and I was one of the originators of morning program. I sang with all the kids at morning program for about 25 years. It was the best way to start the day. It forms community.

Second of all, the impact of music on the human soul. Let’s talk about that for a minute.

I think that music reaches a place deep inside of us. It’s powerful. I think it can help bring world peace. It strengthens us as a community, a nation, a people. These are really challenging times in our world. Adults have fear, and children have fear as well, and I think that music can help alleviate some of that. Peace begins within each of us, and music helps to promote that peace. Not just intrinsically, but it becomes an extrinsic force in our world. I really believe that kids need a place to come together, to share, and talk, and sing, and ponder, and question, and understand each other, and understand the world together. I would love to be a person that brings kids together for that purpose.

How did you come up with the idea for the Kids Community Peace Chorus?

After the Parkland, Florida, school shootings, I just said, ‘What can I do to help promote peace in our world?’ Because I love working with kids, I thought this was something I can do to help.

Who is this Kids Community Peace Chorus for? What will you sing?

Right now, I’m starting it with kids from grades three to six. Once they get to middle school, they’re involved in a lot of sports after school. I’m not sure what age group is the easiest to reach and that has the time, so I settled on grades three to six to start, and if that expands, great. Even though it’s being held at the Unitarian Universalist meetinghouse and they’re helping with the logistics, this is for everybody. It’s not religious. It’s nondenominational. It’s welcoming to everyone. There will be people to help, and parents can drop the kids off and leave their contacts and come back in an hour and a half, or maybe they’ll want to stay and have coffee and talk to each other. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll start out with a version of “Stand By Me” in Spanish and English and “Nothing More” by The Alternate Routes, which was used in the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Some I’d like to teach with sign language or rhythm instruments, some with movement that will be active and fun. My brain is constantly at work.

What are your goals, and how do you hope to accomplish them?

My first goal is I want kids to have a fun place to be. Singing and dancing are the times I’ve seen the most joy in kids. They kind of let go of all their worries and inhibitions. I want to offer that to them. Joyful time, time away from their iPads and TV and cellphones. I’ve been retired four years now. I’m ‘aging out’ of the kids who know me. The kids of students I’ve taught are now out there — I call them ‘grandstudents’ — and I want to be a part of that again. Part of the joy of singing and promoting peace in our world. The goal could be to share that with the community at gatherings. That would be great.

The Kids Community Peace Chorus will hold its first meeting on Thursday, April 19, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork meetinghouse, 977 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. Pizza will be served. To sign up, call (631) 725-3938 or email nremkus@optonline.net.