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First-Year Music Teacher Credits Those Who Inspired Her

Teaching is a complex art form and when you add a little musical nurturing, it can be a supportive pillar for a student’s success—as in the case of first-year studio teacher Tatiana Rivera.

Rivera is a choir director at Riches Music Studio in Ocean Springs, but not too long ago she almost gave up on her dream of teaching choir and music. Luckily, her Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College choir teacher, Kate Sawyer, got her back on track.

“My freshman year of college I was going to quit music due to a lack of confidence, but she believed in me and helped me push forward,” Rivera said.

And Rivera completed her associate degree in arts with a focus on music education at the Jackson County campus with Sawyer as a friend and mentor. She graduated with awards for Overall Outstanding Music Major, Excellence in Music Theory, and Who’s Who Among Students. Most recently, Rivera received a $500 scholarship from the 11th annual Young Artist Vocal Competition, and she performed four soprano recitatives from G.F. Handle’s timeless oratorio “Messiah” with the Gulf Coast Messiah Chorus.

“She really helped me see my potential,” Rivera said. “I’d like to one day be the Kate Sawyer for one of my students.”

Currently, Rivera teaches Theatre Chorus and Junior Show Choir to young students, and she’s affectionately known as Ms. Tati. She’s also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in music education at the University of Southern Mississippi and plans to pursue a master’s degree.

“My goal is to eventually teach at the college level,” she said.

Rivera, who is originally from Puerto Rico, credited her grandmother for her passion for teaching.

“She became a teacher at 18 and used her skills to give people of all ages the opportunity to learn,” she said. “She cared so much for the kids and adults she taught and went as far as introducing field days and field trips to her school system for a more hands-on way of learning.”

Rivera chose to teach music because it gives her the ability to express her love for music while also showing children how music can be beneficial to them.

“I think it is a beautiful thing being able to leave a lasting positive impression on kids and that music can shape discipline and character,” she said. “As a studio teacher, I only get to see my students two or three times a week. I have two students that show up every week without fail and it is because they love what we get to sing and learn. Seeing them be present not only physically but mentally, gives me a boost of serotonin every time.”

During what little downtime she has, Rivera enjoys reading in her backyard hammock and occasionally bakes. And, surprisingly, this self-driven, caring, independent young woman with an uncanny knack for organization loves to be spontaneous and adventurous. She also had a little advice for anyone graduating high school and thinking about going into teaching.

“It is not up to others who you are to become and who you are to impact,” she said. “It is only up to you, and I am so proud of taking the leap of faith and finding a job now that surrounds me with music and teaching.”

All photos are courtesy of Tatiana Rivera and Riches Music Studio in Ocean Springs


Written by Cherie Ward

Cherie Ward is an award-winning Mississippi Gulf Coast journalist with decades of experience in writing and photography. She lives in Ocean Springs with her husband and has two adult children who also live on the Coast.

Connect with her by email at [email protected] with story ideas or find her @cherieward on Instagram. She would love to hear from you.


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