She has been teaching Niles youth to sing

Published 1:01 am Thursday, May 12, 2005

By By RANDI K. PICKLEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Mary Louise Stauffer, better known to Niles residents as Becky Stauffer, has been teaching music for over 45 years. Few people know that the nickname "Becky" came from her maiden name, Beckman.
To honor her years of service to the community's youth, and to celebrate her upcoming 80th birthday, her family is hosting an open house at the First Presbyterian Church in Niles. Some of her 30 current students will perform background music during the event.
Becky and her husband Bob, were high school sweethearts back in Naperville, Ill., and headed two different directions. Becky ended up at Oberlin College in Ohio and the two ended up in Ann Arbor so Bob could finish his MBA at the University of Michigan.
After moving to Mishawaka to take a job in human resources at the Ball Band plant, Becky became the choir director at the Albright Methodist Church there for nearly seven years.
She and Bob, who recently died, have been an active part of the Niles community since they came here 48 years ago, when Bob accepted a here position at Kawneer.
So she didn't look for a new position as choir director. When Becky's children were small, she found that teaching music was a good profession to balance with the job of raising four children since she could set her own schedule with private piano and voice students.
John is the oldest of her own four children and is an executive for the Greater Niles United Way. His wife, Michelle, works in the mortgage department at Fifth Third Bank.
Tom, is retired from Disney in California, where Brian still works. Like his mom, Tom is a musician and has made a CD of his own compositions, singing and accompanying himself on the piano.
Carol is closer to home and works for the Whirlpool Company.
Becky also has three grandchildren in California and three in the Niles area.
Once her children were older, she added teaching applied music at the University of Notre Dame to her list of activities, and did so for next 20 years.
Referring to the early days at Notre Dame, she said, "They didn't have a music building back then and needed to get applied teachers to build up the program. When I applied, they hired me on the spot." Becky said she was surprised and pleased to be accepted at such a well-known school. "I had nearly 40 students there, but was never really 'on the faculty,'" she added.
Becky was also a familiar face at Ballard School when it was still a junior high school for seventh through ninth grade. She taught music at Westside School as well.
At one point, Becky tried her hand at substitute teaching for the school system, which involved teaching a variety of subjects, but said she didn't really enjoy it. "All I really wanted to teach was music," she said.
Once as a substitute teaching for a marching band session, since she was not familiar with the students and which instruments they played, the students tried to fool their new teacher. "The kids switched instruments on me," she said.
Another of Becky's jobs included working for the Greater Niles United Way. "I started out part-time," she said, "but eventually went full-time." She stayed at that job for 12 years.
One of her passions over the years has been the Niles Music Club, an affiliate of the National Federation of Music Clubs.
The group encourages young people to pursue music studies and, at one time, offered scholarships to help them further their musical experiences.
Maureen Born-Sturgeon, a former voice student and scholarship winner, is now singing opera professionally in Vienna.
Becky is still going strong at almost 80. An energetic woman with a keen mind and an interest in everything, Stauffer is busy accompanying students and teaching privately.
She is still active in the Niles Music Club and gets excited about her students' successes.
She would enjoy seeing any of her former students, as well as friends and family members at the open house this Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church, 13th S. Fourth St., Niles, this Sunday, from 2 to 4 p.m.