NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Jonathan Berryman has passionately taught music in New Haven for the last 24 years. He grew up in a musical family, in the heart of the American south in Richmond, Virginia.

He developed a beautiful singing voice and learned how to play musical instruments in the church where his father was the minister. Berryman is a graduate of two Ivy League schools. His undergraduate degree in music is from Princeton while his graduate degree in choral conducting is from Yale.

He’s at the Head of the Class for empowering his students through laughter and song and making sure his kids can find their voice

“I don’t ever remember a time when there wasn’t music. My mother’s side of the family is full of singers. My father’s side is full of singers. We all played the viola. I’m the youngest of five. My oldest sister started playing the viola in elementary school and it became the family instrument that was handed down to all of us,” Berryman said.

Berryman took on piano at a young age and admits to being very good because he was taught how to read music, something his students come out of his classes learning how to do.

“Music helps us to understand ourselves. Once your find your voice, then any instrument you pick up becomes an extension of who you are, so one of the real points of teaching music is it truly helps students understand who they are and to declare that this is my voice,” Berryman said.

He says teachers need to be more vocal about what their needs are, and they need to be listened to.

“I think teachers need to simply be asked more of what their opinion is, and it needs to be honored. Often, we have politicians who mean well in terms of their decisions to create and develop policy, but they haven’t really asked the teachers whether or not it’s good policy,” Berryman said.

News 8’s Ann Nyberg asked Berryman, “What’s the best thing about being a teacher?” He responded, “I think the best thing about being a teacher is really seeing students progress, seeing them learn, seeing them find their voice.”

“Once you know who you are, once you know how you fit in, once you admit that you have limitations, but you also have a gift, there’s something unique about your voice. How do you know it was me? Because I know your voice, I know where you stand, you matter. Once they understand that, then they can contribute positively to any society they’re in,” Berryman continued.

Berryman’s students are getting the best from a musical master. He wants to head into administration in the future where he can further teach to others what he has learned from some of the best.

To read more inspiring stories from teachers of Connecticut, check out the online platform launched by Dalio Education earlier this month at www.teachersofconnecticut.org.