Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 31, 2010
Teacher transforms sorrow into songs
Young widow obeyed God's guidance to ponder Psalm 55, and now CDs of her songs are played in schools
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Tamara Liske was widowed at age 30 when her husband died from cancer. Without him and alone with God, that quiet and sorrowful time opened the door for her to write songs.
"Almost out of despair, a good joy came," she said.
Following his death, she said that God drew her to Psalm 55. Words and music scurried around in her head and she composed a song from what she heard.
"I didn't feel that I wrote it. That song in particular I felt was a gift, and that was my first song," said Liske, now 34, a music teacher at Bishop Savaryn School, for kindergarten to Grade 6 students.
She has three brothers in bands achieving success with their songs. As well, her mother always made up songs for piano students and people at church. Despite being a music teacher, this was the first time Liske ever wrote a song.
That was in May 2007, and around that same time the theme for the school year was The Giving Tree, a well-known tale about a relationship between a boy and a tree in the forest. Teachers sought a song about trees to tie in with the theme.
"There are no songs about trees, not really, at least nothing the kids could really get their teeth into. So I thought maybe I could write a song. I started writing a little song with the chorus, 'You are the vine, we are the branches. You are the Tree of Life.' That became our theme song for the year," recalled Liske.
The song resonated with the students. A Grade 1 student who loved the song painted a picture of the Tree of Life that now hangs on the wall in the music room.
The next school year, a book about dreams and stars was chosen, and the theme was Every Child Shines. Again Liske wrote a song, Shine Like Stars, asking God to let everyone shine like stars for him.
She has now penned eight or nine songs, composing a new one whenever she feels compelled to, usually about every four months. Her songs have since been put on CDs, and get played not only at Bishop Savaryn but at other Catholic schools in the city.
Jesus, Dream a Dream With Me is the name of her most recent song. Some teachers cried when they heard it the first time at a school assembly. It is a conversation with God, asking Jesus what his dream is. In the song is a line that says to trust in the Lord's arms because that is such a safe place.
"There's always kids who go through hard times and their families are not a safe place, and their friends here at school are not safe for them or not kind to them. I'm hoping they can understand that God is a safe place for them," said Liske.
A SAFE PLACE
Especially after losing her husband to cancer, not losing her trust in God was important. She could still acknowledge that God is a safe place where one can find solace.
This newest song is the favourite of Barbara Brilz, the Grade 5-6 teacher at Bishop Savaryn School.
"What I like is that her passion comes through with anything we do. She's a very passionate music teacher and she composes a song every year for the kids and they practise it all throughout the year.
In addition to familiarizing themselves with the new song every year, the staff and students hear Liske's songs at least once a week because some mornings her songs are played over the school intercom.
"I like how she takes some of my other favourites like Awesome God, and she'll sing it for us and let us play it on the morning broadcast. She speeds the tempo up, slows it down, whatever we need, and gives the kids actions so they have something to help them remember the words," said Brilz.
Learning the songs and the accompanying actions are popular with the students.
"Her songs are really good because they focus on God and they create the theme for the year," said Zachary Wynnyk, a Grade 6 student who plays the violin.
"I think it's definitely brought the kids together more because with all of the actions, everyone is doing them in the gym and it's really fun."
Liske is not returning to Bishop Savaryn School next year as she will remarry and move to Kelowna.
Before she goes, she intends to write one final song for the school. No theme has been determined, but she said that she would continue praying about it, and see how God inspires her this time.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.