Coronavirus aside, it has been an eventful school year for Craig High School choir director Libby Fischer.
After moving to the Janesville in fall 2019, Fischer teamed up with the theater team of Jim Tropp, Jan Knutson and Michael Stanek at Parker High School to lead students in a joint production of “The Music Man.” Her momentum slowed, unfortunately, as COVID-19 rolled in during early 2020, and schools were closed.
An Iowa native, Fischer is a 2015 graduate of City High School in Iowa City and a graduate of Luther College in Decorah. During her senior year at Luther, she was selected as a finalist for the National Undergraduate Conducting Competition through the American Choral Directors Association.
An admitted fan of Taylor Swift and Mexican food, Fischer’s immediate family includes parents Dan and Jennie, younger sister Rachel and younger brother Joe. Although her childhood dog, Buster, still lives with her parents, Fischer and her partner also care for a rescue dog named Audrey.
1. When did you first discover you had a love for music? I was so young, I really don’t remember first discovering a love for music. My dad used to sing to me every night, and he likes to tell the story of him carrying me to bed before I could even talk, and me rubbing his back and humming my “goodnight song.” I asked to take piano lessons at a very young age and started singing in choirs when I was in third grade. I’ve been heavily involved in music ever since.
2. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? Seeing the passion of music in my students. I know it sounds cheesy, but seeing them “geek out” over upper-level music concepts is so fun.
3. People would be surprised to find out I: Love learning about outer space. One of my favorite classes in college was about Earth science, and we had a unit about space. I could’ve sat and learned about it all day. I also frequently look at the NASA website and read its articles.
4. Aside from music, what other hobbies or pastimes do you have? I love games, especially card games or board games. My favorite is Rummikub. I could spend hours playing.
5. If you weren’t involved in your current career, what would you most likely be doing? If I didn’t teach choir, I would be a social worker—ideally working somewhere with kids. Human contact is so important to me. I would never survive an office job.
6. You’re originally from Iowa. Aside from the corn and cows, have you found any major differences between there and Wisconsin? There’s not too much of a difference, although Iowa is much more flat than Wisconsin. We don’t have all the beautiful hills, cliffs and forested areas Wisconsin has. Although the climate is about the same, it is MUCH windier in Iowa because there aren’t natural things stopping the wind. It makes it feel warmer here even when the thermometer reads the same temperature.
7. Earlier this school year, you worked on a joint production of “The Music Man” with the folks over at Parker High School. How did that go? It went very well. I had so much fun working with and learning from (retired Parker Music Director) Jan Knutson. She is such a great person and teacher. She has been beyond helpful. It was also so much fun seeing my students make friendships with kids from Parker. It creates such a fun, healthy bond across town.
8. Are you much of a reader? I do enjoy reading, but I don’t always find I have much time. Because of this, I really like audiobooks. I listen to books in the car, while I’m cooking, etc. I recently read “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and truly loved it.
9. Are you a fan of travel? Yes! My junior year of college, I went to Germany with the choir I was singing in. It was one of the most transformative weeks of my life. We traveled Eastern Germany and the Czech Republic singing in all kinds of beautiful cathedrals and exploring cities. I also went on a family vacation to Oregon and loved it there. We stayed in Eugene, so we went to the ocean a few times, explored sand dunes and visited some relatives. I would go back there in a heartbeat.
10. How much of an influence were your parents on your chosen career? My parents would say they aren’t musical, but they are in their own ways. My mom grew up playing piano and clarinet. I have vivid memories of dancing around as a little girl while she played piano for me and of learning duets with her on piano. My dad has never been directly involved in anything musical, but he would sing to me constantly when I was growing up. My parents encouraged me and my siblings to be involved with music. My little brother is musical as well, although he’s a percussionist and doesn’t sing very often.
11. If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would be the first thing you would do? PAY OFF MY STUDENT LOAN DEBT! After that, I would probably pay off my parents’ student loan debt (my dad went back to grad school when I was in high school), and possibly go back to grad school myself. I love learning. If I never had to write papers, I would stay in school my entire life.
12. If you could trade places with one person for one day, who would you most and least want to trade with? I would most want to trade with a professional chorister. Getting to sing in a choir for a living is my DREAM. I would least want to trade with any first responder. I have the most respect in the world for first responders because I could never do their job.
13. How have high school students changed since when you were in high school? There is so much pressure put on high schoolers, as they are expected to have their entire lives planned out. In reality, half of their life plans will change in a few years anyway. Fifteen-year-olds don’t need to know what they want to do, if they want to go to college, where they want to go to college, or any of that. We expect them to be mini adults when their brains aren’t fully developed.
14. What is the photo currently your cellphone’s lock screen? My current lock screen is a picture of my partner and I with our caps and gowns from college graduation. We went to different colleges and graduated on the same day, so we weren’t able to be together. But we got some pictures taken beforehand.
15. What was your first car? In high school, I drove a red 2002 Ford Taurus that belonged to my parents. Just this past summer, I bought a 2015 Toyota Prius, which is technically the first car I have owned by myself.
16. What is your astrological sign? Do you believe in astrology? I am a Virgo. I don’t believe all the silly things people make up, but I do think there’s an element of fact to the universe outside our Earth impacting our moods and being. If the moon affects our tides, it must impact us somehow ...?
17. Do you find more satisfaction in singing yourself or in teaching others to improve their abilities? It depends on the day. Singing in a choir is probably one of the most influential parts of my life, but I also love giving that opportunity to my students. There’s nothing quite as satisfying and seeing my students’ faces when they hit a really beautiful chord in a piece of music.
18. Are you a good cook? NO ... I’m such a bad cook. Maybe it’s just because I’m inexperienced, but I can’t seem to ever get the timing of cooking down. I also just never seem to like my cooking as much as my mom’s. She’s the queen of cooking. My favorite meal to “make” on my own is getting a rotisserie chicken, making mashed potatoes and adding some green beans.
19. What was your favorite childhood toy? I had a remote-control car when I was maybe 7 that I loved. I would play with it all day long and never get bored of it. I also loved basketball growing up. I would spend hours in my driveway playing basketball with my neighbors.
20. Were you ever self-conscious of your singing? I was never self-conscious of singing in choir. There’s something empowering to me about singing in a group of people. I do not like singing on my own, however. It took me a long time to be able to sing confidently in front of others. Even today, I have no problem singing in front of my students, but I would hate to have my parents sitting in my classroom listening to me. Helping people sing out is very challenging. Just constantly encouraging and giving little tips to help improve their tone quality can go a long way.
Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.