Coral Reef Elementary’s ‘Mr. Nick’ teaches children a love of music

Theodore Nicholeris (Mr. Nick) conducts music at Coral Reef Elementary.

The Coral Reef Elementary chorus is silent now because the students are on summer vacation, but when they are back at school and the singing begins, 100 or so children will take part in chorus.

The unusually large chorus is a tribute to popular music teacher Theodore Nicholeris, who has been at Coral Reef Elementary about seven years, starting in the 2005-06 school year. He is known as “Mr. Nick” and during most years he teaches students in second through fifth grade.

“This year I had some in kindergarten and first grade classes once a week for half an hour,” he said. “The district allocates for second through fifth grade.”

Mr. Nick said he has a different philosophy than many music teachers.

“It’s large by a lot of people’s standards because a number of music teachers limit their chorus to fourth and fifth grade,” Nicholeris said. “For me it’s the second, third, fourth and fifth. You can identify earlier the kids. It sells itself with the kids. We were at 100 at our largest. I think we finished up at 88.”

He tried the traditional fourth and fifth grades only chorus but discovered by the time the kids got to where he needed, they were ready to move on to middle school. He said it is remarkably manageable once he got to control aspect down.

The kids sing at school and they also sing for the community.

“We performed at a number of locations,” he said. “We were at school for the re-naming of our street, SW 152nd Street, to Dolphin Way. We took the whole chorus to the Falls to perform there in an evening performance. We sang at the Fun Fair and at a performance for a Holocaust survivor when they came to the school and the year end performance.”

They also performed for the Village of Palmetto Bay at the picnic in March.

“It’s not uncommon to have a half a dozen performances through the course of a year,” Nicholeris said.

He spends 12-16 hours listening to music in order to choose the right songs for the kids.

“It has to be powerful and make some kind of impression on an audience,” he said. “It’s not going to have the intensity if the kids don’t feel it themselves. Selecting the music to me is 90 percent of the battle.”

Mr. Nick is well liked because he goes out of his way to help children who apply to magnet schools — for music and drama — prepare for their auditions.

“I also write a number of letters for them,” he said.

He has an impressive track record.

“I have to say that I’m at 100 percent at this point.”

How does he help? For music students he assists them in selecting their music but he also talks to them about what to wear and helps them with their look.

“They have that one minute, thirty seconds to establish their presence in that room,” he said. “First, it had to do with what song they are doing. If it’s something more lyrical and delicate, you would want the look to be more lyrical and delicate. The music determines that. Over 90 percent of what people perceive is visual.”

For the drama students, he helps with timing.

“I tell them when to pause, how long to pause. I say, this is when you stop. Let that statement sink in. Don’t just run through it like that.”


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