Kenyatta Hardison speaks often about purpose and hope—finding it for herself, and giving her students a deep sense of it. “Music changed my life and gave me purpose,” says the music director at Cardinal Shehan School in Baltimore. “And through singing we are giving people around the world hope.” Many of the half a million viewers of Hardison’s video of her students singing Andra Day’s “Rise Up” would agree. The choir has since performed on Good Morning, America and sung the anthem at a Baltimore Ravens game. But, says Hardison, “education comes first!”

The Basics

School: PreK–8 music appreciation and grade 5 religion teacher and afterschool/travel choir and drama instructor, Cardinal Shehan School, Baltimore

Career Path: Hardison went to a performing arts high school in Baltimore before attending Catholic University in Washington, D.C., as a musical theater major. “Because of a void I found in my journey in college, I realized I wanted to teach, so I changed my major to music education. I have been teaching at Cardinal Shehan for 23 years.” 

Teaching Philosophy: “Expect the best and they will give it to you. I have been placed in my students’ lives for a reason.”

Quote: “Creating music creates a peace that will keep you in a better place.”

Cool Project

Musician of the Week: “My middle school students love this project. I will pick a musician of the week according to the genre we are working on or current music events. The assignment is to write a summary of the musician’s biography. To research, we use websites like For the summary, I require that students not only write about the musician’s achievements but about his or her early childhood life and upbringing. I want them to know that all of these great musicians are ‘human’ and started out just like them, with a passion that came early or later. At the end, to test their knowledge, I give them an open-page quiz.”

3 Ways to Find Your Voice

“Listen to great singers and choirs. And join a chorus, any one you can, whether it’s a school, church, or outside choir.”

“Perform as much as you can.”

“Sing like you’re ordering at a 5-star restaurant, not ordering a number 5 from McDonald’s.”

What’s one lesson from your 23 years’ teaching?

“Students love discipline more than we think—as long as they can have fun and see light at the end of the tunnel.”


Photo: Courtesy of the Archdiocese of Baltimore

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