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Rising Artists: Billings Senior singer passing prowess onto others

Lydia Parkins teaching
Posted at 3:46 PM, Feb 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-26 12:44:02-05

BILLINGS — It takes about two notes to know Lydia Parkins is an artist.

"This year especially. Her voice has just exploded," said Billings Senior choir director Jacoby Holte. "Her performing abilities are breathtaking at times."

Parkins is already one of Billings' best sopranos. She’s the only high schooler in the Billings Symphony Chorale and consistently performs in a number of ensembles.

"I couldn’t picture my life doing anything else," Parkins said.

Lydia Parkins singing
Lydia Parkins is already one of the best soprano voices in all of Billings, as the only high school member of the Billings Symphony Chorale.

But she doesn’t mean singing. She means teaching singing.

"Performing is so much fun, but that’s not everything," she said. "I don’t want to be in the limelight. I want to be the person that makes everyone else believe they can be."

At 18, Parkins already knows where life is leading. She’s going to be a music teacher, and she credits Holte for all of it.

"He is the greatest role model I have ever had," she said, noticeably holding emotion back in her voice.

Holte is as beloved as any teacher in School District 2 because he’s built a choir community.

"The one thing Senior does a little bit better than others is that community," Parkins said. "We don’t leave anyone behind. We always build everyone up so that everyone knows they are so important in the music-making."

"You can create a great choir with just being demanding and kicking everybody else out," Holte said. "But just to create a space where humans feel appreciated and loved, I think kids rise to that."

Jacoby Holte
Billings Senior choir director Jacoby Holte is one of the most beloved teachers in all of School District 2.

Parkins certainly has, vocally and as a leader. The two met last year to discuss her next steps, and now, Holte has her basically student-teaching his freshman choir class.

"They love her. They love her so much," Holte said. "She’s so much easier to relate to than me."

She even taught and conducted a piece of music for the group’s last concert.

"It was really nerve-wracking at first," said Parkins. "That’s usually a good thing because the uncomfortable has to happen to get to the comfortable."

"Once she started the conducting, it looked like she’d been doing it for years," Holte added.

Lydia Parkins teaching
Lydia Parkins (right) helps a Billings Senior freshman choir student with her solo as choir director Jacoby Holte (center) accompanies on piano.

Not yet - but soon.

"A lot of people when they get into student teaching, they say, ‘Oh shoot, I don’t like kids or I don’t like teaching,'" Parkins said. "Holte and I talked about that, and connecting with these girls and becoming a person that they can come to with problems and come to about music-making, it really told me I know I’m making the right decision and that I'm going to be super happy in the future doing this."

As she starts to build her own community.

Billings Senior choir sign
An inspirational sign above the Billings Senior choir room door serves as a reminder of the positive community director Jacoby Holte is trying to create.