Hello, Happy (Multi-Talented) Mama: Tara Haner
by Callie Collins
by Callie Collins
Aug 29, 2022
Tara does not see her life as particularly extraordinary or interesting, even though the variety of life and work activities she is involved in stand out.
“I don't put things in my life that don't feel good to me,” said Tara. “Everything I do involves my family. I couldn’t do it without my husband’s support. He brings me the theatre materials I need, keeps track of finances and so much more. I only associate with people who understand that family is my priority. I choose employers who allow me to prioritize family. Everything I do is built around edifying the family.”
Tara and her husband, Scott Haner, are the parents of Kya, 17, Wyatt, 15, Caden, 13, and Addie Grace, 12. Scott taught high school math for 17 years and now teaches independent study at Kern High School District’s Discovery Center, a secondary school for students with unique situations seeking an alternative path to graduation; he is also known in the community as a long-time basketball referee. Together, they homeschool two of their children and farm two-and-a-half acres. “We’re big on self reliance and our family life involves canning and milking,” said Tara.
Tara practiced civil litigation defense for nearly five years before becoming a principal at Valley High School; she left the school in 2005 and continued her law career.
A kind of longing for something more remained.
“Being involved in matters with a constant source of contention wasn't serving my heart,” said Tara. “I absolutely love law and my practice as an attorney but I also need the arts.”
She founded Theatrix KIDS, a specialty program designed to teach music theory, vocal performance, dance, and acting via group and private lessons, in 2018.
“Doing storytelling and music to help process emotions is something theatre therapy groups do very well. I see the value of processing trauma as something that can benefit young people by putting on a different character, being able to process and work through issues. I know of juvenile offenders who have become productive members of society through the power of music and theatre,” she said. “I wanted to be involved in that.”
Tara developed her techniques from her own teaching experience, where she saw performers with fewer opportunities to excel in more than one arts discipline, and from the work of Bethany Lahammer at Platform Theatre Company.
Involvement in the arts continued for Tara and took on new relevance at the time of her Father’s death in 2019.
Tara is the daughter of L. Michael McQuerrey, a beloved choir director best known for his nearly four decades of service in local schools, including Arvin High, Liberty High, South High and West High. He may also be
familiar to Kern County residents as music minister at First United Methodist Church. She sang at home from a young age and played flute from the fourth grade through high school.
More than 500 former students attended McQuerrey’s funeral and sang Peter C. Lutkin’s arrangement of “May the Lord Bless You and Keep You.”
“It was an incredibly moving experience that took place in the town he had taught in, the town where I grew up, with all of these adults singing on risers,” explained Tara. “I paused after the funeral and felt a calling on my soul to continue his legacy.”
Tara began as North High School’s choir director in 2020. She now teaches in the same room used by Dr. Darrell Cates, who filled the role in the ‘80s and was also an early voice teacher for her as a young child. Occasionally, she finds sheet music with Cates’ name on it in the space, a full circle moment that makes her smile every time.
Although Tara continues to practice law
part time, she remains grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the arts and in enterprises where family can come first. She credits North’s principal, Dr. Mark Balch, for empowering teachers at North in a way that keeps them coming back to the classroom, with a supportive environment.
Tara believes participation in the arts opens doors for young people, something she has also observed firsthand and considers part of her identity through diverse experiences, including a gap year in Spain.
“You cannot understand yourself and humanity well until you see what others have lived,” she said. “Exposing young people to a diverse populace, different ways of thinking, different languages and ideas is something we have to do for our young people and it shows up in art.”
The majority of the student population she serves is considered below the poverty line, a factor contributing to the circumstances of some who have never left Kern County. Tara will lead a student trip to Washington, D.C. June 15-19, 2023 over the Juneteenth holiday to attend multiple ceremonies at the We Have a Dream Choral Festival. Donations to fund student travel are accepted via Venmo to @NorthHigh-Choir
Q. Parents of young children may feel lonely and isolated in their particular phase of life. What advice do you have for respite and renewal, especially for women as mothers and caregivers?
A. Daily gratitude is something I practice in the morning and evening, which includes journaling the things I'm grateful for, and prayer practice, which is 50% praying and 50% listening, experiencing stillness and quiet. In that quiet, I allow space for God but also for myself. I contemplate goodness and our many blessings. That practice has changed everything for me, from the amount of times I can smile to my breath control. I also take a walk every single day.
Taking care of myself makes me a better mom, person and friend so I can continue to show up for my family, our church, sports and community.
Q. What is your parenting PSA?
A. Take time to look your children in the eye. Take time to love. Take time to notice your kids, not just be and do, but love them and find what matters to them. I don't think you can do that without getting on their level and looking them in the eye.