Catherine was born In May of 2001 and her love of music was apparent in those early days. She suffered from colic that summer and the only way to get her to stop crying was to sing to her. Lucky for me, extended family was in town that summer and Catherine would be lulled to sleep with songs like “You are my sunshine”, “I’ll Fly Away”, and other bluegrass tunes. We would sing to her in four part harmony and her crying would stop. She would study us all with those big brown eyes until she finally dozed off.
Throughout the years, Catherine would learn any song she could on the radio and would sing constantly. We always had music. She sat in choir rehearsal at church from a young age and was enthralled with the music and instruments. Catherine eventually joined the choir the moment she was old enough.
It only made sense that in the 6th grade, she join middle school band. At that time, I was a single mother of three and had just enough money to cover the basics and bills. I told her that she was free to join band but flute was her only option. There happened to be a few in my closet because I was once in the band. Early on in her journey to learn a new instrument, it was evident that there was talent and passion inside that child. She practiced continuously, and her world revolved around that instrument. Growing up in a musical family, she felt as though she had big shoes to fill. My grandparents, parents, and sister all played at least one instrument. Catherine was passionate about music. But that talent would not have been realized if we didn’t have access to a free instrument. There was no way I could afford an instrument at that time.
Through the years we got her into private lessons and she thrived. When it came time to join High School band, there was no question as to whether or not she would participate. She jumped into marching band with both feet and used that passion for music to strive to be the best. She was pushed and challenged and while she got frustrated, she never gave up. Catherine continued to learn to play any instrument she could find. She taught herself to play the piano and ukulele, and planned to learn the banjo. I believe that her passion for music would have led her to learn every instrument possible.
But music didn’t define Catherine. It was a part of her but the thing that made her Catherine was her love of people. She was empathetic and always worried about the underdog. She fought hard for the rights of others and thought any injustice to someone was the worst thing that could happen. She was passionate. Catherine Batcheler was going to change the world. She had this amazing ability to talk people into buying what she was selling. Most times she was just selling a chance for the underdog to succeed. For the better part of Catherine’s life, she was the underdog and knew how it felt.
When a young man in our neighborhood was starting middle school in August of 2017, she found out that he wanted to join band and couldn’t because of the cost of an instrument. There was no way his mother could afford an instrument and the school was out of extra instruments to loan out. Catherine was furious. She thought that every child, regardless of background and income, should have access to music education. She called on friends to find out if they had an instrument this young man could borrow. She asked adults and did everything in her power to get this young man an instrument. I had never seen her so fired up. For her, the idea that a child wasn’t going to be able to join the middle school band because of income was quite possibly the worst thing that could happen. At some point in her quest, an extra instrument came available at the middle school and the young man was able to join the band.
Catherine left this earth on August 30, 2017. In the days after, I was distraught because she was going to change the world. With her gone, who was going to change the world? In those moments of grief, I decided that we could support music education programs. And Catherine’s Orchestra for All was born. Ensuring access for all students who wish to be involved with the music program was very important to Catherine. We hope that this will be one of her lasting legacies in Middle Tennessee for many generations to come.