Deines’ Bel Canto

Longtime English teacher Janine Deines is also a classically trained opera singer


Photo by Taryn Smith

Jack Lynch, Online Managing Editor

Janine Deines is many things — IB Director for Northwest, ELL teacher and classically trained opera and show tune singer.

I’ve always been singing — since I was little it was something I enjoyed,” Deines said. “However, I didn’t know I ‘could sing’ until I was in seventh grade.”

When Deines was recommended for professional vocal training, she went to sing for former SM West choir Director Bill Oldham. While her professional training began in seventh grade, she had already been exposed to her talent for years.

“My parents loved music,” Deines said. “We had a phonograph. My dad had a huge record collection. Big band, show tunes, jazz — we always had music in our house.”

Despite the more classical influences Deines was exposed to at a young age, she found a genre that suited her adolescence.

“My parents hated ,” Deines said. “When I would get angry with my parents I would go to my room and put on the song ‘The Bitch is Back’ by Elton John, full blast. That was my response to, ‘You’re in trouble’ or, ‘You’re grounded’ or whatever. I wasn’t a perfect child.”

The transition from Elton John and rock’n’roll to classical opera was not a decision Deines had a say in.

“Everything goes back to my vocal music teacher,” Deines said. “He would give me opera to sing because he was into training me vocally. It wasn’t rock modern stuff. It was basically always classical opera.”

Her training in opera gave Deines an appreciation for the genre she didn’t have before; an appreciation which continues to this day.

“Why opera? It has a lot of emotion,” Deines said. “You have to use the songs to tell the story. In musical theater you have words besides the song to tell the story. In an opera it’s just the songs, the musical. It’s so emotional.”

As she grew up, Deines focused her life less on music and more on her other passion — teaching.

“I already knew when I went to college I was not going to be a vocal major,” Deines said. “First of all, I knew I wasn’t that good. When you go to college there are people that are really, really good and I knew I wasn’t that good. So I just did it for the enjoyment. I did stage shows, the Rock Chalk Revue, my sorority always did skits during rush. I was always the lead in the skits because I was the one who could sing.”

Even as Deines focused more on teaching, and less on her musical passion, she continued to find time to practice her talent.

“Now music is just secondary, it’s not a focus like it was in college,” Deines said. I made that choice and I love the choice that I made. I’m not sure all of my students agree, but it’s not like when I was a lot younger — when I was thirty years younger, I had to balance the two. I just do it for fun.”