Sylvia Plyler: A Note of Excellence

By Leslie Moore

Choral Director at Waccamaw High School in Pawleys Island, Sylvia Plyler’s journey to becoming a high school choral director and leader of an award winning choral group was a little different than some music teachers. A native of Darlington, South Carolina, marriage, education and jobs led Sylvia to Colorado where she was working and raising her four children.

“I was a church music director, private teacher for years and taught studio lessons at a private school,” Sylvia began. “While my children were still very young, I decided to continue my studies and I auditioned for vocal performance at Lamont Conservatory, University of Denver in Colorado.” Even considering attending this prestigious conservatory made Sylvia nervous, but she took a chance and was accepted – and given a full four-year scholarship.

“After I graduated, I went on to earn my Master’s degree in Choral Directing and Education – Vocal Performance, giving me my biggest edge into the public schools.” Sylvia laughs when she remembers those years. “I don’t know how I did it with four small children, but I’m glad I did!”

Sylvia taught while her children were growing up and the years passed quickly. One day, she received a call from a friend in South Carolina, encouraging her to apply for a job as music director at Pawleys Island Presbyterian Church and move back home. Sylvia knew she was ready to come home to her beloved South Carolina. “I came to Pawleys Island and interviewed, and by December of 2011, I was living here and working at the church.”

“After I came to Pawleys Island, I would watch the teaching jobs, not really looking for a job, but, after all, I am a teacher!” Sylvia always enjoyed attending the concerts at Waccamaw High School and at the spring 2013 concert, a friend gave her the news that the current choral director was retiring and asked if she might be interested in the job. The rest is history, and in the fall of 2013, Sylvia took over as the new Chorus teacher for Waccamaw High School.

Life in Pawleys Island is just wonderful as Sylvia imagined it would be. “My friend who first asked me to come home said this would be a magical place for me,” she remembers. And it has been magical. In 2015, Sylvia married Gary Plyler after they dated for nearly three years. Her four children are doing well; she has two grandchildren, with two more on the way, and a career that is deeply satisfying.

This dedicated music teacher has made the choral program her own, bringing the best of the school’s talent together to form the WHS Choralaires, a group that has performed around the Grand Strand area and represents the excellence of Waccamaw Warriors. “I think anytime you go into a program you want to plant the seeds of your own passion. I knew where it needed to go and just had to figure out how to get from A to B.” Today, the group is a huge source of pride for the school and auditions are extremely competitive. “It has taken time and will continue to build. We had to erase the cultural divisions and become a family. Today, I see how much these kids support each other behind the scenes – it affects everything that happens on stage.”

“This year, we will continue to maintain the underlying mission. We have some incredible repertoire picked out that will showcase what we learn in the classroom.” Along with teaching music, Sylvia makes sure her students are emotionally ready to perform. “My job is to get them ready for a concert so they’ll be comfortable. Knowledge brings comfort. And comfort brings fun and joy in performing.” Sylvia went on to say she also stresses the importance of appreciating every moment. “I tell my students that everything they do creates a memory. This exact audience will never be sitting in these seats watching you perform ever again. Make it special.”

Even with talented students and a dedicated teacher, tight budgets are always an obstacle. “Donations to our program are so important,” said Sylvia. “The Pawleys Island Festival of Music & Art has donated 20 keyboards to our lab, changing the learning experience for students. One student really struggled in the beginning, but he learned his scales and chords. He says he wants to be a musician for life!” The local music festival also donated choral binders that will be used for many years to come.

As we finished our chat, Sylvia told me she had a big announcement to share. “I’ve been named director of the BEACH [gifted and talented] music program,” she told me excitedly. “I’ll teach gifted students from all over the county once a week in Georgetown, and we’ll have a fall and spring concert.”

To support these programs, call Sylvia Plyler at Waccamaw High School at 843-237-9899 or email at swarr@gcsd.k12.sc.us. The Waccamaw Chorus and Choralaires first concert will be held Tuesday, December 4th, and is free and open to the public.

 

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore

    Leslie Moore

    Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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2 Responses to “Sylvia Plyler: A Note of Excellence”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Always fun to read an inspiring story about such dedicated people such as Sylvia.

  2. Rose Ann says:

    So heartening to hear about teachers of such high caliber and dedication.

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