“Fow-ler! Fow-ler! Fow-ler!” The cheers rang from the amphitheater in California’s Great America theme park. The Carmel Middle School concert band, orchestra and jazz ensemble had just received first place overall in every category possible, and the students immediately broke out into this spirited cheer thanking their beloved teacher.
Joyous memories like these sit heavy in the hearts of her past students after CMS music teacher Nancy Fowler was involved in a fatal automobile accident Sept. 10 in Castroville. The news reached the public the next day, sending ripples of mourning and remembrance throughout the school district and local musical community.
Fowler taught at Carmel Middle for 11 years, and in that time she touched thousands of lives through her musical instruction and friendship.
“When you’re in music, taking a class every year and seeing that teacher every day for three years of middle school, you really learn a lot about them,” says senior Marie Rogers, a concert band flautist. “And it’s not just that…. They’re not just teaching towards a standardized test, they’re teaching directly for your benefit.”
Nancy Fowler took this idea of personalized teaching to heart, spending countless hours of her time helping students individually on audition tapes, passages of pieces and skill work.
One such example of this is recalled by current University of Southern California music student Ben Bransford.
Once when he was stuck and frustrated on a certain section of a piece, Bransford recalls how Fowler sat him down and said, “Ben, you are way too concerned with perfection. Life is not perfect, and neither is music. That’s the beauty of it! The skills that you learn in music will affect your entire life, in every area. Trust me!”
Another important element of Fowler’s teaching was her appreciation of all different styles and genres of music.
“When I started band, I was really into hard rock…and I totally thought different musical styles couldn’t mix,” says Wesley Kise, former French horn and guitar player. “But then in seventh grade, when I walked into her office and it was covered with Led Zeppelin posters, it was an eye-opening experience for me. I still remember it distinctly to this day.”
Expanding students’ musical horizons was just one of Fowler’s talents, which extended much farther than just the realm of music.
“She taught me not to be embarrassed if I wasn’t at the same level as everybody else,” junior Spencer Hubbard remembers, “and to keep striving and to improve as much as I could.”
But above all, Fowler’s legacy will be defined by her kind heart and endless dedication.
“If I had to boil the essence of Nancy Fowler down to one thing, honestly, I would say it would be her smile,” CHS music teacher and longtime colleague Brian Handley says. “It said so much about her and who she was as a person. She had this radiant smile that demonstrated her absolute joy and enthusiasm for life…. It just shone through.”
In the words of choir teacher Tom Lehmkuhl, “She had what we call in French joie de vivre—a love for life.”
The lessons Nancy Fowler taught her students of hard work, dedication, passion and an inherent love for others will always be remembered.
There will be a public memorial service for Nancy Fowler on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Cypress Church in Salinas.