Fergus Falls has lost a beloved grade school music teacher that taught the love of music to generations of Fergus Falls children.
Bernice Roysland taught elementary music for 35 years at Fergus Falls Public Schools including McKinley and Adams, as well as the former Madison Elementary School and the Dalton School before it closed in 1980.
She created musicals at Adams School playing the piano and directing the students as they sang. She taught generations to love music. Roysland was definitely one of a kind, also being the author of several books.
Roysland graduated from Bemidji State College with Bachelor of Science degrees in English and Music and later earned a Master’s Degree in Music Education from the University of North Dakota and taught English at Walker, Benson, Bemidji, Duluth and Lewistown, Montana, prior to moving to Fergus Falls.
A fellow teacher she worked with, Cherrie Mathieson, said Roysland had a very distinct style with her students.
“She had a very gentle way of teaching. She was very knowledgeable about music and very creative. She was also a composer and had written several musicals that she performed with her students both in the elementary and high school level. Her musicals were very lively and clever. She even did one about Susan B. Anthony, what she attempted to do was teach along with performing. Teach about the women’s movement, it was a lovely and lively musical,” said Mathieson.
Mathieson said Roysland would find the best in all of her students.
“She taught at Duluth and two or three other schools. I think what was unusual about her was that she valued each child individually. She saw each child as an individual, she played to their strengths. If she saw a child that could sing a solo, she’d feature that child. If she saw one that could write music, which she did have some that had that ability, she would pay attention to that. Bernice saw the good in everyone and that was what made her really unique,” said Mathieson.
She was also active in the Fergus Falls Education Association, serving on many committees and as president of the association and a member of the Western Division Board of Directors.
In 1981 she was named Fergus Falls Teacher of the Year and in 2005 was inducted into the Fergus Falls High School Hall of Fame.
Roysland enjoyed writing operettas for her classes to perform. She also published a non-fiction book and a book of fiction, wrote music and enjoyed writing poetry. Her titles include "Nourishment for Body and Soul," "Gospel of the Sparrow" and the poem book called, "Embers."
Another teacher that worked side by side with Roysland was Joni Wasberg.
"I first met Bernice in the fall of '77 when I was hired as an elementary music teacher. I had the privilege of working with her in that capacity for many years. She shared her wisdom and experience with me and we had many opportunities to collaborate on musical concerts and programs. In addition, after she retired, she came back to work with me on presenting musicals she had written. Bernice was a wonderful and inspirational teacher and talented writer and a humble and kind-hearted friend. She had a great sense of humor and shared it with everyone. Her wit and wisdom and love of the English language are evident throughout her creative works. We worked closely together in the last several years and it was a privilege to help Bernice complete both a novel and a book of poetry. Bernice left a special mark on this community and she will be missed," shared Wasberg.
Director of Vocal Music at M State Fergus Falls, Laura Odden-Quaintance, said Roysland was a major inspiration to her and her career path.
“As someone who was inspired by her and has now become a music educator myself, I will never forget her smile, her skills on the piano and her true love of education. She focused on inspiring our community and many others through her music and motivation. She believed in me as a musician before I even realized that was my purpose, and gave me opportunities to explore that. To this day, I can still sing the Adam’s School song, as well as a few songs from music programs we did, thanks to her teaching in elementary music. Her legacy is a blessing to so many of us,” said Odden-Quaintance.
Roysland was also active in A Center for the Arts, the Fergus Falls Writing Group, Delta Kappa Gamma, the Fergus Falls Concert Association, First Lutheran Church Choirs and served on the church council.