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Volunteer says music expresses what her heart feels

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Theresa Campbell

Chances are, if you're looking for Theresa Campbell you can find her in one of two spots, Holy Cross Church or Fairbanks Middle School. Just follow the music.

Campbell spends a significant amount of her time teaching pre-teens and teens how to sing. At Holy Cross, she teaches teenagers on the Life Team choir and at Fairbanks Middle School she helps instructor Gene Willey out practically every school day with the school's choir.

To say music is incredibly important to her is an understatement. She met her husband, Ron, at a karaoke competition in the Phoenix area. (She and her twin sister beat him.)

Her volunteer duties don't end there, however. She also teaches catechism to third graders as they prepare for their First Communion, helps out with the church's annual Angel Tree Christmas program and is the founder and organizer of the annual Coty Denogean Memorial Suicide Awareness Walk.

Bertha Leon, who has been teaching catechism with Campbell for six years, is amazed when she sees the kids and Campbell interact.

"The kids love her. She just has a presence that the kids react to," Leon said. "She's outgoing, warm and has a way of interacting with them. She's just fun to be around."

Fairbanks Middle School Principal Brian Haag said he was brought to tears during last year's holiday concert. She helped turned kids who couldn't hold a single note into amazing singers, he said.

"I bet she is here more than she's not," Haag said. "She's here at least three or four days a week."

The kids consider Campbell to be a beloved aunt "who helps you be the best you you can be," Haag said.

"They care about her and they know she cares about them," Haag said. 

Although Campbell started volunteering when her daughter Isabella was in the fourth grade, she's still putting in tons of hours four years later, Willey said.

"She deserves a medal for her efforts but she will have to settle for the gratitude of students who have learned from her, not to mention my gratitude as a teacher who has been able to accomplish far more with her help than I could have by myself," he said.

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The Campbells have been married 28 years. Fifteen years ago she was working in finance for a semiconductor company in the East Valley and pregnant with Isabella, their second child, Ron Campbell said.

They decided they wanted to move to a small town where Theresa could stay home with Isabella, the baby, he said. They chose Morenci because she'd grown up there and only left because her father had to transfer elsewhere.

As the years went on, Theresa began volunteering in Isabella's classes and when Isabella started the fourth grade, the choir was created at Fairbanks.

Theresa immediately volunteered. She'd majored in music, once worked as a singing waitress and sang in church choirs, Ron said. 

"When it came to volunteering at school, at first it was an hour a day. She would go and help out and now it's turned into four hours plus a day," Ron said. "Plus, she's arranging music or reviewing music in the evenings and on the weekends. She brings her work home with her, but it's all voluntary."

Being able to share music with the kids makes her day, Campbell said. Music is just an important part of her life and she can't keep it in; she must share it.

"My music and my faith go together and music can express what my heart feels," she said.

As for her work with the suicide awareness watch, she just felt she had to do something in the wake of her nephew's death in 2013. It is an event that will always remain near and dear to her.

"We want to be able to touch kids, to make them feel as though they are worthy it, that they are enough, that they are somebody," Campbell said.

Ron continues to be awed by his wife after so many year.

"I'm just super proud of her, and she's my hero," Ron said. "She's made me a a better person for the last 28 years."

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