The homecoming two school years ago wasn’t what any teacher would expect, when Catherine Swan Feazell returned to Niceville High School as its new chorus director.
A pandemic altered her first year as director, with Zoom performances and masked singers; the second year wasn’t much better.
“We thought it was going to be normal, but then it wasn’t,” she said.
Feazell graduated from NHS in 2003, after performing with the chorus under long-time Director Michael Dye. When he retired, Dye asked Feazell if she would be interested in taking over.
“I hadn’t even considered moving back, and then the position opened,” she said.
In 2020, Feazell, her husband, Christopher, and their son, Canon, came home.
Christopher Feazell is director of the Ruckel Middle School chorus program. Canon, 5, enters kindergarten this school year.
Feazell grew up in the Mid-Bay area, first attending Bluewater Elementary School when she was 7 years old, and going on to both Ruckel and NHS. During her high school years, she performed with the elite choir, Opus One, and she consistently earned highest honors during solo and ensemble performance assessments.
Feazell was among the first group of students whom Dye took overseas for performances. She, along with classmates, toured the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany, singing in prestigious concert halls and churches.
After earning her undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University in Virginia, Feazell received her Master of Music degree in choral conducting from the University of Mississippi.
“Christian and I both found jobs there (in Mississippi) and stayed there longer than we thought,” Feazell said. Coming home, however felt good.
“We love the area,” she continued. “We feel it’s a great town to raise our child.”
She added that as an adult, she sees Niceville differently.
“You look at a city through a different lens,” Feazell said. “Teenagers: They don’t like anything, and then you leave and find out it’s a great community.”
She said she did feel some of the changes: “I got here, and within a year, they closed Bayou Books, no Mullet Festival, and no Bay Beacon. That’s what makes Niceville.”
As for the chorus, she found some things remained the same.
Her office is in the same location as it had been under Michael Dye. Desks may be new, but they are in the same locations.
Joining Feazell and the NHS chorus program is Michelle Tredway, accompanist and assistant to the director. Tredway had served as a middle school choral director in the Okaloosa district, and she brings with her a vast experience as a collaborative pianist. Tredway holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of West Florida and a master of music in music education from the Florida State University.
“I will support Catherine from the piano and with anything else she needs me to do,” Tredway said.
As the two music educators look toward the 2022-23 school year, they have already prepared for upcoming performances.
“Now we’re back to normal, we hope,” Feazell said, with hopes of no masks, no pandemics.