Joan McBride: The Coastside’s Best of the Best..Story by Michaele Benedict

Mother Teresa, Jane Austen, Martha Stewart, the Marx Brothers: Joan McBride has a touch of each of them.

Recently, Joan was directing the Coastside Chorale’s weekly Tuesday evening rehearsal at the OddFellows Hall on Main Street in Half Moon Bay. The group is preparing for a special concert to be held in the Hall at 7:30 p.m. on
Saturday, May 24.

After warm-ups and some advice on breath control, vocal placement and phrasing, the Chorale began to practice a piece based on an Ogden Nash poem:

“The cow is of the Bovine ilk.
“One end is moo, the other milk.”

“Oh, don’t say ‘other’,” Joan said. “Say ‘udder’.”

And of course the choir cracked up.

With an age range of 14 to 80, the community chorus has featured humorous selections as well as classical repertoire and show tunes in their concerts over the past two years.

Joan sang with the 50-year-old group for a while when she, her husband and three children moved to the Coastside from Kansas in 1976. In the fall of 2006 Joan took over from Kay Raney as director.

After more than 25 years of teaching Special Education classes at Half Moon Bay High School, Joan retired from the Cabrillo Unified School District in June 2006—for a few months. She now teaches five subjects at the men’s county jail in Redwood City, preparing inmates for their General Education Diploma (GED). She directed the prison choir for a Christmas program this year.

Joan was a church music director in Half Moon Bay for 28 years, starting with a few singers and eventually counting five choirs and a bell choir. Under her direction, the church choir not only sang service music every week, but performed major choral works such as the Mozart Requiem, the Mozart Coronation Mass, the Rossini Stabat Mater, Rene Clausen’s “A New Creation”, Bach cantatas, the Faure Requiem, and even Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.

At community Christmas carol sings, Joan usually conducts participating Coastside church choirs and the audience in the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah, as she did the past two Decembers.

Joan has been singing all her life. She was born in Belleville, Illinois, and sang for community organizations and events all through high school. When she auditioned for the music department at Milliken University in Decatur, Illinois, she was granted a full scholarship to study music. Meanwhile, Dick McBride, who had lived on the same Belleville street when and Joan were children, was attending Milliken on an athletic scholarship.

The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Dec. 17, 2006, with a dinner at Caddys (formerly Mullins Bar & Grill) attended by family, friends and some of the original wedding attendants. Joan sang the couple’s favorite song. Dick sits in the tenor section, and acts as librarian for the Coastside Chorale. He is a part-time marshall at the Half Moon Bay golf links.

“All my children are musicians,” Joan says.

Her eldest, Kris Ann, a physician in Seattle, played saxophone with the University of Southern California Trojan marching band, and now plays piano for her church, as does her son, Joan’s teenaged grandson Christopher.

Second daughter Kim, a lawyer, was a flute player who also sang in the church choir. She lives on the Coastside with her two daughters.

The McBrides’ son, Kelly, played oboe in high school, but traded his oboe for a saxophone and a carburetor when he went to college. He raced sports cars, and working on one was the cause of his untimely death in 1993.

Since her own college days, Joan has been a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, an international honorary music fraternity whose mission is to encourage, nurture and support the art of music. The organization gives scholarships, awards and student loans and furnishes music and instruments for special needs music students. It provides a cottage at the famous MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire for musicians who wish to study and work there.

Joan McBride has made a difference and is still making a difference in the lives of many students and singers, but somehow she also finds plenty of time for home and family. She taxis granddaughters to lessons and activities, cooks spectacular meals, makes award-winning quilts, reads voraciously and even builds doll houses.

The Coastside Chorale’s next concert will be at 7:30 P.M. Saturday, May 24, at the Odd Fellows’ Hall, 526 Main Street, Half Moon Bay. Sponsored by the Cabrillo Adult School, the group is open to anyone who likes to sing. For information, telephone Mrs. McBride at 650-726-9266.


Michaele Benedict, seen here with her dwarf crabapple in full bloom,

is a noted musician and the author of this article. She will be the group’s piano accompanist on Saturday, May 24. Michaele’s latest non-fiction mystery is called “Searching for Anna.” For more information, click here