Elliott Grandall has been privileged to have been introduced to a relationship with music his entire life. Now, in retirement, after many years of teaching in Kingsland Public Schools, Elliott is still actively engaged with music, sharing his vast knowledge and enthusiasm in Southeastern Minnesota. Elliott reflects, “In retrospect, I realize how incredibly blessed I have been throughout my life. Starting with my parents who led me to my faith in God and how to live a purposeful life, useful and of help to others. I also have two fine brothers, two wonderful sons (David, 36, and Soren, 26) and a warm, caring extended family. All along the way I have had really beautiful people placed in my life, from whom I have learned how to be a better person. The greatest blessing has been my wife Karen, of 39 years (a retired ELCA pastor). I’m still amazed that I found someone who loves me as she does. Though we are quite different in many ways, we share a common love for and passion of music. Because we share similar musical tastes and both enjoy performing, we speak the same ‘language.’ And, then, to be able to direct these various choirs and teach privately in ‘retirement,’ it’s truly an idyllic life. I wish for other seniors to be able to find such happiness and peace!”
The journey of his life can be traced to a small town in Northwestern North Dakota where he was accompanying choirs, soloists and ensembles at a very young age. He remarks, “At my home church there, I directed the adult choir and played piano and organ for services and especially enjoyed directing community cantatas. Majoring in Instrumental Music Education and minoring in Vocal Music Education at Minot State College in Minot, N. Dak., led him to eventually attend the University of Colorado, Boulder where he received a Master of Music in Horn (French horn) Performance. Elliott comments, “Teaching all levels of music (K-12, vocal and instrumental) has afforded me rich experiences and great depths of understanding of the logical steps in music learning. The support, understanding and many kindnesses of my hometown people and my church family are important to any successes I’ve had.”
Elliot believes, “Music is vitally important in peoples’ lives. We consume/use music all the time. Young and old alike have songs and pieces of music that are meaningful and bring joy to them. Music mirrors almost every emotion we humans have. A lot of people use music to calm and soothe. Think of the many occasions where music is used in prominent ways: celebrations, weddings, graduations or funerals.”
Performing music is especially gratifying, whether alone or with others. Elliott gives a variety of private lessons in his home and at St. Johns School in Wykoff where he conducts the school choir, directs the adult vocal choir and bell choir at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Spring Valley as well as making time to lead the Bluff Country Singers. This group of 40-45 members is made up of wonderfully talented and fun people! Elliott brought this group together for the primary purpose of having fun. “When I approached our accompanist, Suz Eberle, with the idea, she immediately and enthusiastically said, ‘Yes, let’s do it!’ and Suz is central to our success,” remarks Elliott. “Second to having fun, I told the group that I hoped that we would make some high quality musical performances for our communities, and they have certainly done that. Our audiences are really supportive, both monetarily and with kind, supportive comments.”
One astounding thing that came to Elliott’s attention just a few years ago was the formation of elder choirs, consisting of seniors with some forms of dementia and their caregiver/companion. There are a few such choirs in the Twin Cities. “The singers gather and all assembled sing together, mostly songs from earlier days of their lives. They present concerts and certainly experience great joy,” mentions Elliott. “I experienced this with my own mother who journeyed through dementia for about 13 years. Long after she lost the ability to finish sentences, she could readily sing hymns and other songs of the ‘40s through the ‘80s with no trouble. It provided a sweet bond that I cherish to this day.”
Elliott continues, “The pandemic lockdown has taught me a great deal. Mostly, we don’t miss something until it is taken away from us. I was amazed by the number of BCS members that I encountered out in public who exclaimed how much they missed singing! One guy texted me, ‘I really miss the singing, especially the highs of singing together.’ I encourage people who like to sing to give it a try. Performing together produces something that we simply cannot do alone. We can produce something that is bigger than ourselves. One facet of group performance that is not mentioned is love. We all need and desire love, in various forms, shapes and sizes. Not much new there, but music performance is most often positive, non-competitive and driven by the common goal of producing a satisfactory product and gaining internal fulfillment. It can’t get a lot better than that!”
An ideal place to get back to singing is to call music directors in the area, join church or community choirs like the Bluff Country Singers. If you would like to inquire about Bluff Country Singers, rehearsals are on the second and third Sundays of the month for two hours and they perform two concerts per year – Christmas and spring. All rehearsals and concerts are at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Spring Valley. Reach out to Elliott Grandall via landline (leave message) at (507) 346-7882.