A gratitude letter expresses our appreciation for someone who has touched us and to whom we haven’t fully expressed our thanks. It can be to a parent, sibling, friend, a boss–anyone. Ideally, the letter is shared out loud with the intended recipient.

This is my letter to George Cotton, an amazing teacher, mentor and person. George passed away very suddenly this week. I missed my chance to let him know how special he is and I regret it deeply. Perhaps his wife, Colleen, and daughter Spencer will read this. Perhaps George’s spirit will hear my letter.

Dear George,

I met you when Loïc was in elementary school. Was it grade 7? I don’t recall exactly; I just remember he came home and announced he wanted to join the choir that Colleen was directing. I was surprised (and happy). Where did that come from?!

Several months went by and then came the final concert. My mama heart was filled with joy to hear the children sing, and witness the few (brave) choir boys share their voices with the audience. That’s when I first conversed with you: you approached me, shared your appreciation of Loïc, and asked if I had considered voice lessons for him.

When I later spoke with Loïc about it, he was keen to try it out.

That commenced a 8 (?) year relationship that was so beautiful. Your mentorship, your teaching, your care for our son was immense. I attended many of the voice lessons over those years and experienced the power of that relationship myself. Your warmth, your dedication and your joy were always present. As a mother, I couldn’t have wished for a better guide. With your support, Loïc sang with you, in competitions, in choirs, and in theatre–and, of course, at the wonderful house concerts that you, Colleen and Spencer hosted (those were fun!). Singing and Loïc were inseparable. There was so much joy in the singing. Thanks to you.

You were also my first voice teacher. For decades, I had been moved by song and voice, but too judgmental (of myself) and way too timid to sing. That night, the concert night (when you asked me about Loïc taking lessons), I shyly asked if I, too, could try out voice lessons. You enthusiastically replied “yes!” and it was shortly after that I had my first one. Colleen kindly played the piano (very) loudly so I could find the courage to vocalize in front of you. I smile at that memory. That 1-2 years of taking lessons with you set me onto a path of becoming a singer (albeit not a great one)–of that activity now being a part of my life and practice.

George, thank you.

To Colleen, Spencer and George: Thank you for opening your home, hearts, talent and kindness.  Colleen and George, you have shaped the musical lives of thousands of kids and parents. You have personally touched our family in such meaningful ways. I am so immensely grateful.

With love from Isabeau

Since I didn’t reach out to Colleen for permission to include a picture of George, I had not added one here. The picture I selected is from the production of Chicago at Kits Secondary School (Loïc in the white shirt). As with all the productions Loïc was in, George and him worked closely together on all the pieces.

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