It’s off to Ecuador for this Kent music teacher


Covington’s Jillian Comrie is a piano teacher/vocal coach who is heading down to Ecuador to teach. Comrie poses Feb. 20 with souvenirs from her past trips to Ecuador.

Covington’s Jillian Comrie is a piano teacher/vocal coach who is heading down to Ecuador to teach. Comrie poses Feb. 20 with souvenirs from her past trips to Ecuador.

Jillian Comrie first visited Latin America nine years ago and has felt a tug to the area ever since.

“I went to Costa Rica when I was 15 and got hooked,” she says.

Since then she has been to Central and South America several times, including trips to Mexico, Ecuador and Guatemala.

“I just love Latin America,” she says with a broad smile.

On her travels, she noticed what she called “commonalities” with the kids in many of the areas she visited.

“A lot of them don’t have people watching out for them,” she says. “They have to fend for themselves a lot.”

She said many turn to drugs or crime.

This year, the 24-year-old voice and piano teacher is headed back with plans to do something about it: Comrie leaves April 3 for Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, where she will be the new teacher for the Ecuador Youth Choir, a group of 15 kids, ages 10-14.

Comrie says she hopes music can make a difference in the lives of the kids who join the choir as she prepares them for a series of concerts in America in August to raise money for Ecuadorian children.

“I just keep hoping and praying it will keep them off the streets and off of drugs,” she says.

To help her raise money for her trip - which costs about $8,500 out-of-pocket - Comrie is hosting a benefit concert this Friday at Covington Christian Fellowship.

Comrie will be performing originals and cover tunes ranging from classical to gospel to her own style of folk, as well as covers by her favorite artists, Norah Jones and Eva Cassidy.

It’s her debut as a solo performer and she is looking forward to it.

“I believe music has a lot of power,” she says. “It just brings you joy.”

And it’s just that joy she believes is missing from the lives of many Ecuadorian children.

“I think people need to have joy to be able to make the right decisions,” she says. “Sometimes these kids don’t get to be kids and have that kind of joy. I want them to be able to have joy.”

It’s a joy she has known most of her life. She started playing the piano at age 8. She joined the choir at Mattson Middle School and calls out former Kentwood teacher Kurt McKee as driving the message home for her.

“He had such an impact on his students,” she says. “It totally got me hooked on music.”

Comrie went on to Western University in Bellingham where she majored in music education. She came back to Kent to do her student teaching in the elementary schools and is presently the voice and piano teacher to about 40 students ranging in age from children to seniors in locations from Seattle to Auburn and all through the Kent valley.

But though she is fairly experienced teaching Americans, she is preparing for a whole new experience in Ecuador, where she doesn’t even speak the language.

“I’m working on Spanish,” she says with a shy smile, admitting she doesn’t know much past the few years she took at Kentwood.

But along with the language, Comrie is also learning the local music.

“We’re going to work on singing Ecuadorian music,” she says of the choir. “The music is just awesome in Ecuador.”

Comrie says she enjoys the Andean music as well as the salsa they play everywhere, even in church.

In total, she has four months to teach 15 kids 12 songs in a language with which she is not fully comfortable.

“It’s going to be packing a lot into a short time,” she says.

But for Comrie, the music may be the means, but it is not the primary goal of the trip.

“Mostly, music is a tool,” she adds. “The most important thing is people showing the kids love.”

There are concerns about the trip, of course, such as safety, or being about 5,000 miles away from her family for several months, but Comrie’s energy about the trip is infectious. She says her goal is to make a career out teaching music in Latin America.

“I love kids and I just want to hang out with them long-term,” she says. “I want this to be my career.”

Jillian Comrie will be hosting a benefit concert to raise money for her trip to Ecuador at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at Covington Christian Fellowship, 26201 180th Ave, Covington. Suggested donation is $10. For more information call 253-350-3223. To preview Comrie’s music visit

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