“[Clayton’s] mission statement stood out to me right from the beginning,” said Tai Oney, new CHS choir director. “One of the phrases was to love learning and to challenge, and that’s what I like to do for my students.”
Oney comes from Concord Academy in Massachusetts, where he was the Director of Vocal Music. He has also sang professionally as a countertenor in operas for the last ten years.
“I first came to St. Louis in 2015, when I performed with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in one of their productions,” Oney said. “So I am very well aware of the St. Louis community and Clayton.”
While Oney holds a passion for music at heart, he hasn’t always wanted to pursue music as a career.
“When I first went to high school, I was fascinated with biology and anatomy,” Oney said. “I really wanted to become a doctor, more specifically an OBG/YN.”
He also considered being a psychologist or a music therapist, since he was interested in both medicine and music.
“Anything that’s kind of social and interactive,” Oney said. “Something that allows me to form relationships or to understand another person or their perspective. Those are the things I like.”
Oney’s music teacher in high school was the first to put the thought of music education in his mind.
“She really taught me the nuances of music, the history and the theory, how it works, and how it connects to society as a whole,” Oney said. “I became really intrigued and decided that I wanted to major in music education.”
While Oney eventually decided to pursue the route of performing during his masters degree, he has always been a teacher at heart.
“I’ve always enjoyed sharing the knowledge and the gift that I have [in music] with others and seeing that light bulb kind of spark and go off in people, and just allowing others to have fun and enjoy it,” Oney said.
I think it’s also important that there is student voice, and at times definitely student choice”
— Tai Oney
As a teacher, Oney values student voice heavily and looks forward to a classroom with open communication and collaborative experiences.
“ I mean, I have my ideas and my opinions and my experiences that I bring to the table. But I think it’s also important that there is student voice, and at times definitely student choice,” Oney said. “That doesn’t mean that I’m choosing everything or students are choosing everything. It’s just having that dialogue and having that communication line open for students to be able to say, ‘I would love to be able to try this out.’. And I may say, okay, that’s great. Let’s see what works and what doesn’t. Or I may say, you know what, it’s probably best to do it this way. For now, let’s just try this way and then see if it evolves into something that sparks your interest. I like students to try new things, and I think if there’s a dialogue that’s going on and I’m not doing all the picking and students aren’t doing all the picking, then I think that’s when success comes in.”
Most of all, Oney strives for students to be in control of their own learning.
“I teach students to become teachers,” Oney said.
Outside of school, Oney is a big lover for games, especially board games and card games. He also enjoys working in the yard, cooking, and hanging out with friends.
“But mostly music,” Oney said. “I like to share that passion with others and I like to continue having it to fulfill my life.”