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She joined the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Now a teacher who inspired her will watch her perform

University Place native Emily Bateman, top row, far right, will perform Monday with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Seattle in her first concert in the area.
University Place native Emily Bateman, top row, far right, will perform Monday with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Seattle in her first concert in the area.

Emily Pulham's path to music started in University Place and led to the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

In her first concert in Seattle, her high school choir teacher will be there to watch her perform.

"He has had a huge impact on my musical education, exposed me to a lot of different kinds of choral music," Pulham said of David Dickerson, who's taught at Curtis High School for 18 years.

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David Dickerson

"I am really proud of her," said Dickerson, the school's choir and music teacher. "Teaching is such a great profession because that’s when the rewards come — when students do things like this and they ask you to be a part of it."

Pulham, whose maiden name is Bateman, is returning to the Northwest for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's concert Monday (July 2) at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.

She'll be singing just miles from the city she grew up in, dreaming about joining the choir. She was hooked after being gifted a Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD when she was 14.

The choir, she said, "has the potential to bring a lot of peace and a lot of joy to people’s hearts. That's what it did for me. I really just wanted that feeling in my life. After getting my own musical education ... I decided I wanted to give that gift to other people.”

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is made up of 360 volunteers and based in Salt Lake City. It has performed in concert halls around the world and performs every Sunday for a live broadcast on 2,000 radio and TV stations across the United States.

"It’s an American institution that is something to behold," said Dickerson, who will be seeing the choir for the fourth time. "It really is powerful experience to watch them perform."

When the choir came to Seattle in 2005, Pulham sat in the front row and listened to songs she'd previously listened to from the choir's playlists on her iPod. Now, 13 years later, she has a different front-row view.

In 2013, shortly after she turned 25, the minimum age for joining the choir, Pulham recorded an audition CD and was invited to take the group's music theory test. After passing the test and undergoing an in-person audition, she was accepted and entered choir school, where she was trained to join the singers.

Pulham was no stranger to music before her time as a choir member. At Curtis, she dived into the performing arts, joining the women's choir, acapella choir and the school musicals. She met Dickerson while she was in the women's choir. They've kept in touch over the years through social media and family ties.

Dickerson said he was teaching when the school board president and Curtis' principal walked into his classroom to hand deliver a formal invitation to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Seattle performance.

Of the 360 choir members on stage, Dickerson's connection with the one will bring his work full-circle.

"To get to see that choir in that room with someone I was connected to is going to be a real gratifying, complete experience in this teaching profession,” he said.

Her former teacher's presence in the audience Monday will carry special weight with Pulham.

"Just thinking about it makes me a little emotional just because of the impact (he's) had on my music making and how I go about my work," she said. "I learned to view music making as a gift I was giving to people. For (him) to be there in the audience, it just means the world to me."

Meredith Spelbring: mspelbring@thenewstribune.com, 253-597-8509

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