Kenwood Academy Choir Director honored by former alums with remodeled classroom

Choir teacher Richard Nunley poses in his balloon festooned classroom at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., last Tuesday. The room had been decorated with the balloons for an event on Jan. 16 that celebrated American Family Insurance’s gift of a new piano, white board and cabinets for the choir’s classroom and of new risers and acoustic shells for the school’s performance space. – Marc Monaghan

By GABRIELLA CRUZ-MARTÍNEZ
Herald Intern
 
A former Kenwood Academy High School alum teamed up with Chicago’s own Jennifer Hudson and her campaign for American Family Insurance to honor Kenwood Academy Choir Director Richard Nunley by renovating his classroom and donating new resources for current students.
 
DeShaun Blake, a 2016 Kenwood Academy graduate and current student at Morehouse College, said the initiative began on March 2017 when he met with Jennifer Hudson during an event on campus and they began talking about the common ground they had through music. To their surprise, Nunley’s name came up.
 
“He is such a great person to inspire people through music,” said Blake, who was in Nunley’s choir for six years from the 7th grade until his senior year at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave.“Having been a student in his choir program I know the small things that can affect performances, so we decided to help.”
 
Nunley taught Hudson at Dunbar Vocational Career Center where she attended high school. According to Blake, she was excited to be a part of this activity for her former teacher.
 
The project came together through the collaboration of the American Family Insurance Program, where Hudson contributes as a spokesperson, and Elite Productions and finally became a reality in January of this year.
 
“The teams took 48 hours to remodel his choir classroom,” Blake said. “The reveal was a great experience.”
 
Additions to the classroom included a new grand piano, stage materials, and wall décor that featured some of Nunley’s motivational phrases “Change your attitude, change your whole life.”
 
“I was absolutely blown away,” said Nunley, remembering the reveal of his remodeled classroom. “To know that my students, and some of my alums cared enough about me to remember me and to think about the needs that we have currently with my students and I here as far as the equipment is concerned.”
 
On the day of the big reveal, American Family Insurance surprised Nunley and his choir by filming a commercial featuring the Kenwood Academy Choir.
 
“It was a very, very generous donation that the company gave,” said Nunley, who has just begun to serve his 10th year as the Choir Director at Kenwood Academy.
 
“I was really taken away by how my students were involved,” Nunley said. “Not only did DeShaun and Jennifer initially collaborate in this whole project but…several other of my alums that came out to celebrate the reveal. It was really a special moment.”
 
The American Family Insurance commercial featuring the Kenwood Academy Choir is expected to air near the end of March.