Humans of LQHS: Nina McGuane aims to be the ‘best version’ of herself

It’s a cool October night, and the auditorium is a full house. People are packed in the seats and reporters on the side, their cameras snapping away. Three singers gather on the stage together as they perform the anticipated song of the night. 

Nina McGuane, the choir teacher at La Quinta High School, stands in front of the stage, holding her breath. She has faith in the girls, but there’s always some nervousness before a big song. Then the music starts playing, and everything falls into place. 

McGuane, who has been teaching at LQHS for two years, started working at the high school during distance learning. She was very excited when she learned that students would be coming back to hybrid in-class learning in March 2021. 

“[I was] cautious, just like everybody, right? But choir is very hard to teach and learn through a screen. There’s additional challenges that some other subjects might not have had, and in choir we need to hear each other and we can’t physically do that through Zoom,” said McGuane. “So, when I heard that people were going to come back, I was very excited, trying to order some stuff and put some stuff together to make [the room] feel not so empty.” 

Around her room, she has various posters hung on the walls: Snoop Dogg, Lin Manuel-Miranda, and others are among the singers and composers with inspirational quotes. 

McGuane has very strong feelings about choir and music education. 

“I was very lucky in high school to have a lot of exposure to a lot of these people, and I feel like it’s important to have positive messaging and imagery around us,” she said. 

“I feel that [posters] help a lot create the vibe that we want when we’re learning, putting ourselves out there. That’s really important for me as a learner, and as a teacher, and I’m trying to make that happen for my students, too,” she said. 

McGuane hopes that this helps extend to her students and create relationships with each other. 

“We did this really fun song for our show this year from ‘Hocus Pocus’, and the three girls who were singing got really tight and bonded with each other,” she said. “And so one of the girls got everybody mugs with the Sanderson Sister that they played and then mine had all three, because I was the director.” 

She also drinks way more coffee than she should. “I’m always in need of another mug,” McGuane said, “And that one just kind of holds a special memory.” 

McGuane cites her oldest brother as her biggest inspiration. 

“I watched him very intently and admiringly growing up. He learned how to play guitar, learned how to write songs, and he has a nice voice,” she said about her brother who is 11 years her senior. “I remember going to his gigs all the time. And he is very outspoken, and very opinionated, and he went to college and studied music. And I kind of got to watch him do all that stuff.” 

He inspired her to go to college for music. 

“When I was getting ready to go to college and considering music,” she said. “My parents really wanted me to consider a backup degree, like in business or something. But [my brother] really stuck by me and encouraged me and told me that if I know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, then that’s what I need to focus on.” 

McGuane thinks that it’s people like her brother that have caused her to think deeply and feel so strongly about music and about letting it be her life. 

“I’m really glad that I [let music] be my life because I’m really glad because I’m at a job that I genuinely love. I get to come to work and play and sing music and help other people learn how to do that every day. I don’t really know how much more fun you can have at a job, really,” said McGuane. 

“But the fact that most of my day is filled with making music, I feel really lucky,” she said. “And I’m so very grateful that I got that encouragement from my brother because he not only served as a role model for me, but to this day, he continues to encourage me to be the version of myself that I really want to be.”