Choral couple brings love for music, teaching to Brandywine – HORIZONS 2023

Published 6:25 am Friday, March 10, 2023

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Ken and Krystal Davis have been on a musical journey from Michigan to Texas and back, working to bring their love of music to students of all ages. Ken is the new choir director at Brandywine Community Schools. Krystal is the new choir teacher for Brandywine Elementary. Together, the couple are a team opening a new world of expression for students.

Ken started in Northville, a suburb to the west of Detroit. After graduating in 2011, he attended Central Michigan University, studying vocal music education. Krystal came from St. Clair Shores, another Detroit suburb, and also attended Central to study instrumental music education. Both were surrounded by music throughout their lives.

Krystal taught herself to play piano as a child and joined the school band in middle school. As early as 7th Grade, inspired by her band teacher, she knew she wanted to teach music. She played trumpet in middle school, participated in jazz ensemble and marching band in high school, and became a music major at Central. 

Ken was always singing as a child, even putting on performances for his family. He was influenced by his grandparents and great-grandmother, as well as by the music at church. He was awed by the organs, choirs, and brass musicians who played at the church and at holiday performances. At Northville, he joined what he described as a “massive, well-supported, high-achieving” choir program. Before the end of high school, he knew music would be his life.

Ken and Krystal met at CMU, as both moved through the university’s music world.

“She’s always been out of my league, so I’m not sure exactly how I got so lucky,” said Ken.

Ken participated in chamber choir and ensembles in college. He also helped start a barbershop quartet that would go on to compete internationally in Toronto. He spent three years as the music director for Fish N Chips A Cappella, a group that still exists to this day. Krystal spent her time at Central in just about every musical group imaginable, including the University Marching Band, Jazz Central, Trumpet Studio, Wind Symphony, Concert Band, and Symphonic Wind Ensemble. They leaned on each other throughout the college experience, including going through student teaching experiences at the same time.

“It was cool to have him every step of the way,” said Krystal.

Both draw from experiences as children in describing their attraction toward teaching. Ken, having a tumultuous homelife, found a respite in music, a safe place to express himself and feel confident in his abilities. It delivered a sense of community, lifelong friendships, and a goal in which to excel and achieve.

“I want to give that to my students,” Ken said. “Music is vital for our youth around here.”

For Krystal, music gave her a sense of community. She described always feeling very accepted in the music room at school and wanting to create that safe space for kids now. Having a place to be fully herself allowed her to grow and thrive, something she works to create for her students.

“That’s my favorite part, she said. “Seeing kids be able to come into the music room and be their true goofy selves and be able to express themselves.”

After graduation, Krystal taught for a year and Ken worked as a long-term substitute teacher, before their eyes turned toward Texas. In an example of the closeness of the music community, Ken was attending the retirement party for a choir director, where he encountered a close friend from high school who told him of a position in Odessa, Texas. While he was on the short-list for a number of music positions in Michigan, nothing was coming to fruition, so he decided to take a chance on the move. 

Knowing that Texas sets the national standard for music and provided a lot of support and renowned programs, he accepted the challenge, knowing it would make him a better teacher. After a year, a role opened up that was a fit for Krystal and she joined him. In 2021, Krystal was nominated and won Teacher of the Year for the district. During the three years in Texas, they found challenge and success in the music world, but their hearts were drawn toward Michigan and their families still there.

“It was harder than we thought to be away from everyone that we know,” noted Krystal.

They had already been having conversations about a return north when the Brandywine positions opened up. They had connections in the area, including fellow CMU students who had started their school careers at Southwestern Michigan University and had since returned. Community was important and, knowing that Niles was tight-knit was an important factor in choosing to come here.

They arrived conveniently in the first week of June, having time to settle in and enjoy the beach and nature, vibes they missed out in both in Texas and in their part of Michigan. They have enjoyed the lake, the weather and colors as autumn moved in, and generally the sights, sounds, and smells of our region, contrasting the dry heat and lack of water in West Texas.

“It really drives home that we’re Michigan people,” said Ken. “It’s been a massive breath of fresh air, literally and metaphorically”

They’ve begun to settle into their new homes and new positions. Krystal described Brandywine as a tight-knit district, with plenty of people assisting them in making an easy transition. Ken has started with first understanding the choir program, wanting to honor its past legacy, before working on additional goals for the future. Krystal hopes to build relationships with students early, instituting a love for music and a comfort for the program that will carry them into later grades. 

Both have already helped their students perform in multiple events and start to unite around music.

“I want to give kids that love of music, give them that family, that chance to succeed,” said Ken.

As time goes on, they hope to grow the program, with plans for various clubs, performances, and more.

“Hopefully we can have ourselves a huge performing arts program in the next few years,” said Krystal.