Daria Mason began her first professional life as a flutist who sang.
Now she conducts the 85-member Payson Choral Society — in a sense, playing all those beautiful voices like an instrument.
In between she became a music educator as well. Mason teaches music at Frontier Elementary School, joining the staff there four years ago following a 10-year stint at Pine Strawberry School.
Originally from San Diego, Mason earned a bachelor’s degree in flute performance from the San Francisco Conservancy. Once she had her degree, she returned to San Diego and worked with children’s choirs and did private lessons. The choirs were in both churches and schools.
At the schools she first did walk-in coaching, that evolved into a formal introduction to education, teaching music, choir and beginning band.
“I love teaching and children and it is probably where I should have been from the beginning. I love being a conductor, too.”
It was a love affair that started with some reluctance though. Mason had been with the choral society for about five years when her predecessor, Maryann Irvine decided to retire. Irvine recommended Mason to be her successor. However, Mason was not sure she wanted to accept the position. She did not know if her experience would suffice when conducting a choir of adults. The society’s board of directors had no doubts. They courted her for about four months. She aid the president of the board, Bill Backes, was especially persistent. Finally coming to her classroom and sitting there until class was over and making her give them an answer.
“(Conducting) the choral society opened a world of music I would not have known. It is phenomenal. It is scary, but it’s phenomenal,” she said.
“It’s exciting to stand in front of a choir of that size and play,” Mason added.
The group had its first rehearsal for the 2009 spring concert last Monday. The choir is well balanced, with about the same number of men and women participating. Ages of the participants range from 13 to 80-plus.
“The broad base of male voices gives us a dream choir sound. We’re very fortunate.”
No more than 20 percent read music well, but that makes everyone skilled listeners.
“And they work at it,” Mason said.
The choir members are assisted with their parts by having access to digitized technology. Mason puts every piece they perform on a CD, including synthesized versions of all the different choir parts.
“It helps the non-music readers so much you wouldn’t know they couldn’t read music,” she said.
Mason and her family have owned a home in the Rim Country for 18 years, but made the move to the area 13 years ago from the north San Diego area.
They found Payson unintentionally, she said. They were headed to Winslow and came through Payson.
“It was fresh and clean. We picked up a real estate brochure and made an offer on a house the next day,” she said.
It was an unfinished place in Pine, which is still not completely finished. Working on it is one of the things she and her family do in their spare time.
Her family includes her husband and two sons, plus they have had an exchange student live with them for each of the past few school years. This year they have a boy from Switzerland.
In addition to Mason’s work at FES and with the Payson Choral Society, she is with the United Methodist Church’s hand bell choir and praise band.
When not involved with school, community and church music or working on her home, Mason said she enjoys doing other arts.
“Right now I am doing scrapbooking. I also do folk art painting. I still love to play my flute. I love cooking too — putting things together and seeing how they turn out.”