Teacher by day, tenor by night: Teacher Andy Reel sheds light on his second life as a singer


Morgan Trowbridge and Heather McQuinn

     The year is 2014, nerves and excitement course through Andy Reel’s seventeen-year-old body as he swallows a breath in and begins to sing upon the dimly lit stage in front of his peers. He doesn’t know it yet, but this moment will define the course of his future. From the beginning, Reel has used music as a way to express himself. Singing has always been his favorite outlet from school life and taught him more than he could have ever expected.

      Today, in 2022, Reel stands in front of his high school math class, explaining the property of triangles, exhausted from his previous night of choir practice at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. While maintaining an intensive hobby such as orchestral music is hard work, Reel believes every hour of sleep lost is worth the opportunity to perform, and if it weren’t for taking risks, he’d never be where he is today.

      Jason Giordano is a math teacher here at NHS as well, and a friend to Reel. The two have gotten to know each other white well over the past two years.

     “The first time I heard [Reel] sing was in FNL last year, and he can really sing well. And then I learned that he’s in a choir and they went out to New York last year,” Giordano said. “It’s rare for people to be math-minded and then also musically-minded, so I think it’s a really cool combo.”

     Giordano and Reel often spend time together before or after school. They both share similar views about having hobbies outside of your job.

      “If your life is just teaching and that’s all you focus on, you’re going to get burnt out really quickly, so I think outside of school, it’s important to have other things that you can occupy your time with,” Giordano said.

     Unexpectedly, Reel’s singing career started in his comfort zone, on the more technical side of music. He originally worked behind stage, away from the spotlight.

     “I did a lot of technical theater before I started singing. But by the time I was a junior in high school I was ready to try acting and decided to audition for our school musical, ‘Cinderella,’” Reel said.

     “Cinderella” was only the beginning for Reel, though. After being involved in several school productions, Reel graduated high school and decided he wanted to continue his life in music. He realized he wanted to keep music separate from his career, allowing him to keep music as a hobby. So Reel decided to pursue a teaching career at Ball State.

     “I wanted to become a teacher specifically because I like the idea of being surrounded by education,” Reel said. “I like learning and talking to people. I also like a lot of variety. I mean, there will be some days where I will talk to literally 150 people in school. It’s constantly changing, and I like that.”

     Reel now works at NHS as a math teacher, but his career wasn’t the only thing he gained from Ball State. Reel says he stumbled upon something that sparked an even deeper love for music while a student at Ball State.

     “My first day on campus, a professor took my dorm to the Ball State orientation. Performing there was an all-male a cappella group which I thought was so cool,” Reel said.

     And with that, Reel joined the pop a cappella group at Ball State. 

     “My a cappella group competed in the same competition from the movie Pitch Perfect called ICCA, the International Competition of Collegiate A cappella. To get in, you have to send in a video audition and if ICCA likes you enough, they will invite you to keep performing and competing,” Reel said. 

     Interestingly enough, this wasn’t the only musical group Reel was a part of while he attended Ball State. Reel was actually in two types of a cappella groups, each with very distinct styles.

     “I was also part of a barbershop quartet, which is essentially four guys singing really tight harmonies. We entered a competition in 2019, and we won first place, but then we never sang together ever again,” Reel said, “I was still in that quartet for a few years and we would do the talent shows at Ball State and we won some things there too.”

      Even after college, Reel has continued pursuing music while also maintaining a career in teaching.

      “Last year, I auditioned and got into the Indianapolis Symphony choir, which was a huge challenge because I don’t really have a big musical background like the way other members in the choir do. So it’s been really difficult to catch up to their level,” Reel said. “We only rehearse once a week, but we rehearse for three hours every Tuesday. It’s brutal, but the more that I do it, and the more I learn about music, the more second nature it becomes.”

      While he only practices once a week currently, practices will become more frequent as he gets closer to the groups performance. Some spectators believe managing school and singing can be a bit difficult as schedules get more crammed.

     “As far as balance goes, it’s like any extracurricular. if you’re involved in the theater department here, or if you’re on the football team, you’re practicing a little bit every day,” Reel said. “Then, when it comes time to show, when it comes time to play the game or actually do the performance, things get really stressful. You’ve got to do some time management,” Reel said.

     Even though it can be difficult to keep up with the choir and teaching, Reel says he has used the choir as a learning experience, applying what he’s learned to his teaching. 

     “Our director’s name is Dr. Eric Stark and he’s really a phenomenal educator. He’s really good about reading the room and knowing how far to go with something and knowing how hard to push and knowing when to stop. I feel like I’m getting to be a better teacher by being a student of his in that regard,” Reel said.

      Reel looks forward to continuing learning about music and singing through the Symphony and other opportunities he will have along the way. One of the things that has stuck with him ever since he auditioned for Cinderella and has followed him even now is to take risks.

     “I never thought that I would get to have these opportunities and I am really thankful for them. Every single cool thing that has happened to me in music has happened because I took a big risk,” Reel said. “I’ve been really lucky but I would also encourage people to take the risk anyway. Although it feels bad to fail, you bounce back.”