Paula Holmberg: Minnetonka Choral Director Leaves a Legacy of Love

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Paula Holmberg: Minnetonka Choral Director Leaves a Legacy of Love

Photo Courtesy of Minnetonka Choirs

Photo Courtesy of Minnetonka Choirs

Photo Courtesy of Minnetonka Choirs

Photo Courtesy of Minnetonka Choirs

Abby Schindel, Feature Editor

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Paula Holmberg has been teaching Minnetonka High School choirs for 24 years. She teaches Concert, Treble and Varsity Women choirs, along with two small group choirs, Donna Voce and Chamber Singers. Before Minnetonka, she taught for eight years at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota. Mrs. Holmberg heard of the choir program at Minnetonka from the director at the time, Joan Larson, who taught at Minnetonka from 1976 to 1994.

“I had heard such great things from her regarding the great students, supportive families and incredible administration. She had nothing but flattering things to say about the district,” Holmberg stated.

Holmberg decided to be a choral director in sophomore year of high school. She remembers that there was only one choir in the school, with some students messing around behind her. She believed the the lack of seriousness from the other students was limiting the choir’s excellence.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be a choir director. I am going to give some ambitious kid, like me, the chance to be in a really excellent choir,” Holmberg said.

At the end of March this year, Holmberg announced to her classes and the administration that she would be retiring from Minnetonka. Bethel University offered her a job working “three afternoons per week with the Women’s Chorale. An additional rehearsal each week will be spent with the Festival Chorale, a combination of the three auditioned choirs at Bethel: Men’s, Women’s and Mixed.”

She will also help lead sectionals in the Men’s Choir and in Bethel Choir. Finally, she will help train college-aged students to be high school choral directors in the Music Educator’s Methods class. She will essentially be teaching college students how to be choral directors and continuing to inspire students. Holmberg mentioned to her students that, in recent years, her weekly hours have become extensive. Bethel provides a job doing something she loves but allows more time to do other things.

Students in all of Holmberg’s choirs were greatly saddened by the news of her retirement from Minnetonka.

“I love Paula Holmberg more than anyone else outside of my family, and I have no idea what I’m going to do without her next year,” said Logan Cyr, ‘19.

Many students were seen crying throughout the hallways and in the choir room. Some students who were not in any choir thought someone died. Many students couldn’t picture school without seeing Mrs. Holmberg’s “confidence, creativity, and heart,” according to Julia Schulman, ‘19.

Claire Duchschere, ‘18, said, “she’s at the center of some of my best memories of high school.”

Each year, the choirs goes on different retreats, competitions, conferences and trips. Students truly bond with others and Mrs. Holmberg. These adventures are a way to get out of school all while bonding with one another. This year, Treble Choir attended the Lake Conference Treble Festival and then went to Buca di Beppo for lunch.

Mrs. Holmberg “skipped around the tables […] conducting us to sing in the restaurant,” said Meghan Cameron, ‘20.

On the Concert Choir trip to DC, Andrea Lund, ‘19, said, “when we were in the airport after returning from DC […] we sang the choral benediction in a circle holding hands, and it was very emotional for everyone and really meant a lot to all of us.”

The smallest moments between a choir can make such a huge difference in the connection between members, even with a conductor.

Mrs. Holmberg has become an inspiration and a friend to many.

Gabrielle Smith, ‘19, said, “just calling her one of my teachers doesn’t even really feel right to me, because it feels like she’s so much more than that.”

Mrs. Holmberg creates a connection with all her students through singing. Even freshmen, who have only had Mrs. Holmberg for a year, have greatly connected with her. Lenora McFall, ‘21, said “she [has made] choir the highlight of my day, everyday.”

Whether it is students who have been with her for four years, or just one, all of her students have made a deep connection with Mrs. Holmberg.

Minnetonka Schools named Aaron Kohrs the replacement for Mrs. Holmberg in the 2018-19 school year on April 20th. Mr. Kohrs worked as a student teacher at Minnetonka three years ago and has been working at Minnetonka Middle School East since.

Mr. Kohrs said I will strive to continue the strong choral tradition set by current director Paula Holmberg and those before her.”

Students, current and past, said they love Mrs. Holmberg’s energy, creativity, style, passion for her job and many more.

“She is the mother of Minnetonka choirs, and she is one of the main factors in the feeling of family,” said Sarah Ploof, ‘19.  

Anna Magnusson, ‘19, said, “She’s witty and will always respond to a roast.”

All students will miss Mrs. Holmberg and cannot imagine school without seeing her smiling face, but many see how happy this has made her in recent weeks and will cherish the time they were able to spend with her, even if it was short.

“We will all miss her dearly, but I know it is time for the next chapter in her life. I will keep the lessons I have learned from her throughout my choir years close to my heart and mind forever,” said Kate Gallagher, ‘18.

Even though she is leaving Minnetonka, everyone is extremely happy for her and this amazing opportunity.

“She’s a wonderful woman, and anyone who has her as their conductor will be one of the luckiest singers in the world,” said Jackie Townsend, ‘19. Instead of looking at Mrs. Holmberg’s decision with sadness, one can be proud they were in a choir with her and this is a way for even more people to be proud of it too.

As Annika Tamte, ‘21, and many others say, “we all love you Mrs. Holmberg!”

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