A Career Well Lived – Dr. Grove Retires

Dr.+Grove+directs+the+Little+Hawk+Singers+choir+at+the+choir+department%27s+winter+concert.

Rachel Marsh

Dr. Grove directs the Little Hawk Singers choir at the choir department's winter concert.

 For years, Dr. Greg Grove has been a role model in the choir department for many students. Now, he is retiring after 41 years of teaching all together. Amidst the coronavirus, a formal goodbye is not possible. 

I really think it’s that tired old saying that goes, “if you love your job, you never work a day in your life.” I really feel like this has been the perfect blend of matching my skill set, with my passions.  The key to a successful career and life is finding the things you love to do and are good at, and do it for money! (Teasing a little bit……money has never been a factor or I wouldn’t have gone into teaching)” Dr. Grove said.

Dr. Grove went to college at Iowa State and explored many degrees. He played football for Iowa State and after it all, took 6 years to get his degree. His first teaching job was at South Polk High School, where he taught for 2 years. Then he went to Ballard Huxley High School for 8 years, West High School for 1, and City High for 24 years, Iowa Wesleyan University for 2 and finally back to City High for 4 years. 

“Dr. Grove is a wonderful colleague and friend. He was always available and happy to answer questions, offer advice, or just a listening ear in times of hardship. He is a master teacher, so it was a joy watching him work every day and craft some beautiful art,” said Mr. Hagy.

Dr. Grove has been the director of the Little Hawk Singers, the Advanced Women’s Ensemble, the extracurricular boys choir Mannerchör, and Charisma, the prep show choir group for his years at City. He taught freshmen and seniors, girls and boys. Teaching that variable of groups and teaching high school students in general certainly comes with it’s challenges. 

[The biggest challenge] is getting the students to that “Ah-ha” moment when the light bulb finally lights. That and squirrely 6th hour boys. They are tough, but five minutes after a tough class….I’m ready to get at ’em again!” Grove said.

However, the lows always come with highs. The memories and the final product, including the journey to get there, are some of the best parts, according to Grove.

“[Being a choir director] has allowed me to combine my passion for choral music, with my passion for helping kids navigate a particularly slippery time in their life. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve been successful, other times I feel like a complete failure. But every day I wake up, I WANT to be in school trying it all again. I haven’t disliked my job for one day, although there are sometimes frustrations that accompany any job but those have been minimal. Not this is not to say that I don’t have frustrating days, or class periods, but I have never left school one time, not wanting to come back and try again.  Not an exaggeration.” Grove said. 

Traditionally, when a teacher retires, they get recognized, a formal farewell and more. However, in these times, that’s not possible. A career ending with never really saying goodbye. The ending is unexpected and heartbreaking. 

“That’s the biggest disappointment for me. Not getting those final two concerts, and not getting to look each one of you in the eye, tell you how much I appreciate you all, and say goodbye. Heartbreaking every time I think about it. I’ve been trying to write little notes of encouragement to students when they submit assignments and things, but it’s not the same as looking them in the eye.” Grove said. 

His colleague, Mr. Hagy, who is in his second year of teaching at City High, was welcomed by Grove and hopes to do the same to Mr. Walker, who is taking Grove’s position when he retires.

“All my best wishes to you in your (second) retirement, Dr. Grove. You have been, and will continue to be, an inspiration to me and to the thousands of students you have taught throughout your career. Your presence will be missed, but I know you have many exciting things planned for this next phase of your life. I am so proud to call you, colleague and now, simply, friend,” said Mr. Hagy.

No matter the ending, the impact that Dr. Grove has had on the music department in his 28 years of teaching at City High will be felt for years to come. To all the choir students out there, the message from Grove to you is this.

“I appreciate everything you are, and everything you have done for our class, me, and my family. Have confidence in yourself and be the best version of you, that you can become,” Grove said.

I wanted to put in my own little bit at the end of this to combine it a little bit into a teacher appreciation. I have had Grove as a show choir director for two years and as my choir director for this past year. The thing about Grove is he’s always there. He’s someone you can go to for whatever you need, whenever. If you need to store your ukulele in his office, if you need a pass because you were late because you or your friend had a mental breakdown, if you need a practice room to sit in and cry, scream, or practice whatever you’re working on. If you need ibuprofen or bandaid at a show choir competition or if you need to run the duet one more time to make sure you got it down. He’ll be there supporting you, making sure that everything has been done to help you succeed. He’ll tell you ‘you got this’ if you’re shy in vocal lessons or boost your confidence just because. He’ll ask your class to email him over quarantine to talk to him, not just because. Because he actually cares about your life and what you have to say. If you want to know a fun fact about a singer that you didn’t know you needed. If you just need to have a conversation or need some quotes for a story. He will put his best foot forward. He is the grandpa of the music department. He brings his family – complete with a dog and small children – to sit in on your rehearsals just because. 

I’m a sophomore right now and as a freshman, coming into Charisma, I’ll be the first to admit I was not the best. I did not know how to move very well at all. But I never felt unwelcome. Not by Grove at least. I knew I was meant to be there and I tried my best and put my all into every rehearsal, I did this year too, just to make him proud. When you do something that makes your parents proud, it’s like ‘well you’re my parents you have to say that’. But when you make Grove proud? That when you know you did good. It’s not like he’s a mean or strict guy, he can have his moments but once the class is under decent control again and it’s back to normal, happy, funny Grove comes back. The Grove that’ll try to dance in front of the class just because someone asked or told a joke at the end of the class. When you make Grove proud, and he says you did a good job, you really did. 

In Charisma this year, I was lucky enough to have a duet. In those practices with Grove, Frances and I, when we were struggling with the harmonies, he gave us confidence, told us we got it, and sometimes we didn’t, but sometimes we did. Sometimes the mic went out, which happened to me around 3 times. After each time, Grove would come up to me and ask about it, what happened, and apologize. Of course it was never his or my fault but his 5 minute apology, it was always technical difficulties, but many times greatly helped my frustration over the issue. Going with that, I sang a special act at the Spring Show. I sang Bubbly by Colbie Callait. When I told him that, he told me all about how, years ago she had come and sang in the choir room with the co-writer of the song, who happened to be a City High Grad. Fun little tidbits of how now they’re in a band called Gone West, and stuff that I would’ve never known otherwise. Stories and memories shared in small interactions that were very small but just let you know that he truly loved what he does. That he cared about each student. Truly.