Mrs. Kirkland: Notes on a Teacher’s Life


Cara Lawton, staff writer

Although we all know Mrs. Kirkland as a vocal teacher who has been here at New Providence for over eighteen years, life provided her with some interesting detours before she got here.

Mrs. Kirkland grew up in a musical family with her parents and grandparents always encouraging her to play music. She started singing because it was a natural inclination for her, and she always wanted to learn to play the piano.  She also credits her early interest in music to an antique 1800s player piano in her home, which is a piano that plays by itself.  

 She attended Shenandoah University where she was a member of the Conservatory Choir and the Chamber Choirs. Kirkland majored in musical therapy, hoping the degree would lead her into helping in a special education school.

While she started in that field, her career soon led her into being an opera singer in New York City. She sang for the New York City Opera National Company, New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, DiCapo Opera, Liederkranz Opera, American Opera Projects and the Light Opera of New Jersey. 

She described opera life being very deceptive because it is all based on presenting an illusion to the audience: “It’s tough, it’s a killer business. But the thing I would say is what you see on stage seems like a very glamorous life, but it’s actually pretty disgusting backstage.”

She is especially passionate about the overall performing arts and opera crisis during the pandemic because it takes a negative toll on all the performers. 

Surprisingly, while performing, she worked on a Wall Street trading floor as a day job. She did this for a long time while she was a performer.

When she was ready to take the next step in her career, she joined the school from a long term sub position recommended by the late Mrs. Passaro. She was living in Jersey City and had never heard of New Providence, but it didn’t take long for her to fall in love with it. 

Mrs. Kirkland estimates that she has taught thousands of students in her long stretch of teaching at NP, some of whom have gone on to their own careers in music or music education.  Her biggest advice to students who want to make a career out of performing is: “If you want a big position, there aren’t many. You have to work hard and be persistent. You have to have really thick skin especially with social media, lots of negative feedback.”

Currently the Department Head of Music and Performing Arts, Mrs. Kirkland says her job is now a little different than just being a teacher: “I get a broader perspective of what is happening across the department. But also the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, like ordering things people need.”

In her little free time, she enjoys seeing her niece and nephew, friends, or attending concerts. At home she will garden or find a good series to watch on TV. 

While she loves attending concerts, she has trouble picking a favorite performance because of how many she has been to. However, she thinks some of the voice recitals she has produced at the High School have been some of her favorites. 

Mrs. Kirkland’s transition from opera singer to high school teacher helped her gain appreciation for the people around her, and she has shown this through her own classroom.  Not only  is she able to provide her students with musical support and advice, but she has a tradition that shows how much her students mean to her.  As they go off to college, she marks their destination on a map.  She has landed in New Providence, but she has helped others fly away to find their own interesting detours.