Life lessons, high standards for Maria Carrillo instructor Gail Bowers

  • Gail Bowers leads the women's choir at Maria Carrillo High School on Wednesday, September 12, 2012. Bowers has taught music at Maria Carrillo for 16 years, and is in her 25th year of teaching.

Teenage boys are often uncomfortable singing in public. So when Gail Bowers, choral teacher at Maria Carrillo High School, started a men's choir, she didn't know how big a turnout to expect.

She got 14 singers, a decent start.

"I credit it to a boy who was the quarterback for our football team. He was this very popular athlete that joined the choir, and I think he opened the gate to say, &‘Hey, everybody, this is OK,'" Bowers said.

"Now, four years later, I have 61 boys in men's choir,' she added. "It has just exploded."

Maria Carrillo High School has five choirs, with a total of nearly 200 voices, all directed by Bowers.

"There's something about teenagers," she said. "I love this age group. I teach in a situation where every kid wants to be there. They signed up for choir."

Bowers, 47, has been teaching choir since 1997 at Carrillo, where she is director of the choral program and head of the visual and performing arts department, which includes seven other teachers.

During her career there, she has collected some honors, winning the California Music Educators' Choir Director of the Year award in 2006, and the Norcal Band and Choral Directors Association's Music Director of the Year award earlier this year.

And three of her former students have won national attention. Ben McLain, Jessica Freedman and Paul Peglar, now in their 20s, earned a spot last season on the NBC-TV series "Sing Off," as part of the Los Angeles professional vocal ensemble, Sonos.

"Gail Bowers is a beacon of musical education for Santa Rosa," McLain said. "She believes in her students' abilities and expects them to act like professionals. Therefore we become professionals. The standards she sets for her students are at least college level and beyond."

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