A Tribute to Anna Urciolo
Jenni Swanson Voorhees

A Tribute to Anna Urciolo

Throughout her 35 year career at Lower School Anna Urciolo shared her amazing piano skills, her dedication to teaching music, and her humor with the Lower School students and the wider community.  She has a whimsical sense of fun which was on display on her annual October Board, an illustrated journey through all the songs children learned and enjoyed throughout the fall. Students were encouraged to contribute artwork to the board, and Anna saved the special pieces to put up each year. Most notably, she carefully preserved a black cat drawing made by Carlos, a student who has been famous for years for his whimsical cat who traveled the October board, surprising students with the cat’s location each day of the month.   

Anna is an accomplished pianist and composer who worked with teachers to create original songs or to write tunes for their class plays. One of her triumphs is the music she wrote for Jack Prelutsky’s poem “Forty Performing Bananas”, the theme song for a 1983 PK-K production entitled “Gone Bananas”. The song was such a hit it became the finale piece for the annual Fourth Grade Fun Concert. She also wrote or adapted other music to add to school events, including her version of “This Little Light of Mine”.  If teachers needed incidental music, or wanted a song adapted to work for children, Anna could make it happen.  As Sam Francis, who worked on the floor above her said, “I am now very aware of her skill level as a piano player.  I never fully appreciated that.  I miss hearing her practice in the morning before school.”

Anna is an astute observer of students. As one of the few teachers who taught every student from PK - 4, she was able to provide teachers insight about their students and how she was working with them.  She managed the whole fourth grade during her Chorus time, and taught them impressive vocal pieces. Her sense of humor was always on display with her musical choices, along with the call and response “Can you do it?”  “We can do it!” at their concerts.

Outside of school, Anna is an adventurer with a special love of birding. She shared that love with the second grade when they did their bird study, but also with any interested student during recess when she held her “Bird Talk”. These sessions inspired many students to take part in the annual Audubon Great Backyard Bird Count and set them up for a lifelong fascination with birds.

Anna’s sense of humor, her dedication to teaching music, dance, movement, and instruments, accompanied by her creativity and insight with children, are the key elements she shared with Sidwell Lower School over her many years with us. We miss her, but love hearing about her many adventures in the wild, and with her family now that she has time to spend with them!