Ernie Teie, of Nisswa, remembers his on-stage debut in third grade. His town hosted a Tom Thumb Wedding, where children played the parts of local adults in a mock wedding.
Ernie said that since his uncle was the most eligible bachelor in town, that character was the lead, and Ernie got the part.
“I sang ‘Alone’ because I was a bachelor. So that was my debut,” Ernie said.
That song was only the beginning of a long career of vocal performance and teaching.
Ernie’s motivation for singing is simple.
“People enjoy hearing me so I enjoy singing,” Ernie said.
Ernie’s vocal range is baritone bass, a low-note part.
Ernie will perform at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Nisswa at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, with his two sons, Paul and David; Cathy Taylor, an organist at the church; and Laura Raedeke, who plays organ and piano.
Ernie’s son, David, is a cellist in the national symphony in Washington, D.C., and son Paul is a vocalist, who also has a church choir in downtown Baltimore.
Ernie calls it a family performance, saying that he “adopted” Cathy and Laura to make it a whole-family concert.
The concert is free, but a freewill offering will be accepted, which will go toward the Lutheran Church of the Cross Education Scholarship Fund.
The fund was established in memory of Ernie’s wife, Phyllis, who died in 2008. Ever since then, the Teie family and friends have performed the concert once a year to raise money to keep the fund going.
The scholarship goes to someone in the community, usually a high school senior from the church, who is pursuing an education.
Ernie met Phyllis at Concordia College, where they were both in the choir. Ernie was studying music, of course.
He attended Concordia for one semester before he was drafted in 1945 and sent to Japan. A year later he returned and finished his education.
He taught music for many years, at the elementary, junior high and high school levels, before returning to school to get his master's degree, then PhD in choral music and choral education. He also taught music at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh.
Ernie lived in Superior, Wis., for many years, where he was involved in area musicals. Ernie’s favorite musical is “Kiss Me, Kate.”
Ernie played the lead, Petruchio, at the Duluth playhouse. He said it was his best challenge. He’s also played the lead in “South Pacific,” a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. Since he located to the area, he’s been a part of several Pequot Lakes Community Theater productions.
Ernie led a diverse career. He worked for company called Dynamic Homes for 10 years. He was also hired to open a manufactured home factory in New York, and worked for 10 years at the Miracle Ear franchise in Brainerd.
“I enjoyed all of them,” he said of each of the occupations he pursued. “Here I am, 85 years old, and I wouldn’t change one thing. I have two terrific sons; my marriage was made in heaven.”
Today Ernie lives only a couple hundred yards from the church, within walking distance. Though he had been in the church’s choir, he now has macular degeneration, a condition affecting his vision, which made it too difficult to read the choral music.
Nonetheless, he still sings and performs.
He looks forward to the concert, and said each of the five people performing will perform together and in individual solos. Music will include both spiritual and secular songs. The concert is titled, “Music from Norway to Bach to Broadway.”