HARLAN, Ky. (WYMT) - Eastern Kentucky has always been known for great music, but one woman in the region can now claim the title of best high school music teacher in the state.
Marilyn Schraeder is the choir director for Harlan Independent Schools - a position she has held for the past 45 years.
But music has been part of Schraeder's life for even longer.
"I started playing the piano when I was five years old," she said. "My mom was a piano teacher and my dad played the harmonica. We did a lot together. I just love music."
It's a love that has taken Schraeder and her students all over the world for competitions - from Rome to Austria.
She remembers becoming emotional when her students sang the national anthem in front of the Statue of Liberty two years ago.
"I just totally lost it," Schraeder said. "One of them said, 'Do you need a hug, Ms. Schraeder?' And I said, 'Yea.' It was a group hug. I like those group hugs."
Affection for her students is one reason Schraeder earned the High School Teacher of the Year award from the Kentucky Music Educators Association.
"It's quite an honor," Schraeder said of the award. "I'm just very humbled by it and I'm just happy."
Twenty senior members of the Harlan girls choir - AKA "The Musettes" - sang the national anthem Monday night before the girls basketball game. The semi-retired Schraeder said that performance won't be her last.
"A lot of people say I'm crazy for continuing to do it and that I could be doing other things," she said. "But what would I be doing? Sitting at home? I could teach piano lessons or something, but I just enjoy being with the kids."
By all measures, Schraeder has earned a final bow...whenever she chooses to take it.