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Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Hero--Virginia McChesney


There are people in all of our lives who have influenced us in so many ways. I have several people whom I have admired through the years, and who have had a HUGE influence on my life, and the directions I took. One of these people was my high school band director, Mrs. Virginia McChesney (pictured above, and taken from a newspaper clipping). Mrs. Mac was the band director in our small town for MANY years. AND our band was known throughout Virginia as one of the best around, especially for a small town of about 5000 people, and a small school. We won trophies and superior ratings in both in marching and in concert, year after year.

By the time I got into eighth grade (1955) and started playing the clarinet, I knew that I was a part of one of the best bands around. Mrs. Mac was getting up in years when I was in the band ---but you'd never know it, since she was still on TOP in her field, and continued to work for several more years after I graduated.

Mrs. Mac started an 11-piece band in 1933 --and taught for 10 years before receiving a salary. Mrs. Mac taught for over 35 years before retiring ---and after retirement, she taught private lessons to 85 students. AND---she taught most of her life with NO budget. She would count on the town businesses and the parents of her students to help fund the band's needs. She was one very dedicated woman.

Mrs. Mac worked with all of us individually as well as in sections. I had a little advantage since I had been playing the piano (see this POST) since the 2nd grade. A fast learner (and in a family of musicians), I worked my way up to First Chair Clarinet by my Senior year in high school. I made All-State Band and All-County/Regional Band my Senior year. I even played a Clarinet solo during a Spring concert that year. (Wish I had a tape of that concert. )

Music was my life since in addition to piano and band, I also was a member of the high school Choral Group. But--Mrs. Mac was the one person in the music field who influenced me the MOST. She had the respect and love of all ---and we worked hard to please her and to be the BEST. She demanded our best---and we gladly gave it to her.

Unfortunately, I attended a college where there was no band----so I never played the clarinet again after leaving high school. I went to a liberal arts college (Tennessee Wesleyan College in Athens, TN) and majored in Voice and Education and minored in Math.

BUT--of all of the music teachers I had all through the years, Mrs. Mac is definitely on TOP. First of all, I was in awe of a woman band director ----but not just any woman: a WINNER. This woman was the BEST ---and other band directors all across the country knew about this feisty woman and her ability to continually win contest after contest ---from a small, hometown band in Big Stone Gap, VA. I still have such good thoughts of my years in the band---and feel very blessed to have known this wonderful lady and to have been a part of that band. Below are a few more pictures.




Another picture of Mrs. Mac --given to me by her granddaughter, Sammie Lea





A picture of Mrs. Mac accepting one of our many trophies after a marching band contest





A picture of the ten of us who made All-State Band in 1959-60; From left to right: Eddie Jo Duffy, Winfield Rose, Ralph Shuler, Jim Scott, Joyce Bailey, Trina Lane, Betsy Banks, Alice Darnell, Jane Draper and Sammie Rhea Halstead






One of our Spring Band Concerts; I am on the 3rd row from the left on the outside end.

Mrs. Mac is no longer with us---but she will always be in my heart and in the hearts of many others from Big Stone Gap, VA who were privileged enough to know her and be a part of the band.

Who are some of the people who have influenced you and your life?
Hugs,

44 comments:

Abe Lincoln said...

A wonderful story, and inspirational too. Some people are like Mrs. Mac and have the ability to do things the rest of us can't imagine. They are the band wagon we all want to jump on.

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Mildred said...

A very touching memory of one who truly loved what she did.

Mildred said...

A very touching memory of one who truly loved what she did.

Deb Murphree/Alabama Politics said...

Mrs. Mac will always be my hero as well. I loved her dearly. She was such an inspiration to me and my whole family. Besides being my piano teacher for a few years, Mrs. MacChesney was my friend and confidant. I could tell her anything, and she would listen and give me her advice. I won't ever forget her buying me a little necklace with a jeweled heart on it when I spent the night with her. I still have that necklace to this day! I used to ride my bike to visit Mrs. Mac, since she lived a couple of blocks away from me. I get sad now when I visit Big Stone Gap and see the empty lot where Mrs. Mac's little green house once stood. I still have vivid memories of going into the back room where her kitchen was..and smelling her cooking. I remember our recitals...and how she helped me win 2 hymn playing contests. She was the best, and will always remain in my heart. I loved you Mrs. Mac...for all you accomplished in your lifetime, and for all your attributions to society. I loved you for your endearing friendship and loyalty. You were one in a million! Thanks Betsy, for such an appropriate tribute to Mrs. Mac!

Darla said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane Betsy. Wonderful story...our 13 year old is going into her third year of playing the Flute, she loves it..

Brett said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Beth said...

A wonderful tribute to Mrs. Mac---what an amazing and inspring woman. And you are a woman of many talents, Betsy! To have excelled in both piano and clarinet---I would have loved to hear you play.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Betsy: That was a neat story and your memory is outstanding. As you know my son runs a big band proram and is well respected in the music field.

Pam said...

Betsy, that is such a wonderful tribute to your band teacher. Its so nice when you have someone that impacts your childhood and helps you find a direction you enjoy.

SmilingSally said...

Beautiful tribute. Mrs. Mac was indeed an educator.

NCmountainwoman said...

What a great tribute to this wonderful woman. She must have loved the students.

Susie said...

What a lovely tribute Betsy! Sounds like she was a wonderful lady. Even tho I never got to be in the band I always wanted to.

Jo said...

Betsy;) what a wonderful tribute to your band teacher. I love that another blogger (here above on comments) Deb Murphree also knew and loved Mrs Mc. Thanks for the tour to where the "other half lives" I'm trying to sign on as a follower to your blog but cannot enter the link. (((Hugs))) Jo

Peggy said...

what a wonderful lady! There are several that have really inspired me over the years but at them moment you are one lady that gives me inspiration each day. You are a blessing to many friends.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

What a lovely tribute! I hope someone from her family sees this to know that you remember her after all these years!

Arkansas Patti said...

Really great tribute to someone who obviously had a very positive influence on your life. It was nice to see it reinforced by Deb Murphree.
I agree with Your EG. Do you know of any surviving family members you could possibly send it to? I know that would mean the world to me to hear something like that about a family member.
BTW Thanks for enjoying my day for me. Have a great time. I am counting on it.

bookbabie said...

Band and choir teachers are often very loved by their students, music and the arts are so important in schools, I always hate to hear that they are the first to be cut in tough times...great tribute Betsy:)

Kelly said...

Wow.....what a wonderful woman and a beautiful tribute. You are such a musical person! You should put a little band together--I'm sure you'd have fun!! I used to play clarinet in the band as well!

Shellmo said...

What a wonderful talented woman! So great that she was a positive influence on you! My stepson has been learning to play the clarinet - :-)! It's such a blessing to have people who can provide such an amazing impact and influence in our lives. This was good to ponder today - I can think of a teacher I had in the 2nd grade - Mrs. Blume. She was very creative and had her husband build our class a puppet theater and we would write our own plays. She would encourage me to write (I loved to write stories when I was a child) and she nominated me to go to the Young Author's conference at the local university where they featured one of my short stories. I never forgot it. Thanks for bringing back these memories today Betsy!
hugs to you!!
P.S. I have a guest room at the cabin ready for you and George!!! Hint, hint!!

Busy Bee Suz said...

What a wonderful tribute to a seemingly selfless giving woman. WOW. she accomplish so much and gave so much. You are blessed to have been a student of hers Betsy.

Jen said...

What a great story and tribute to your inspiration.

Elenka said...

I'd like to think that she can actually 'see' your story about her. As a teacher, I can just hope that I have influenced somebody along the way and that they remember me like you remember her.
Hey, must have been neat wearing gowns to play in the band! It's so different these days.

Joy said...

What a sweet tribute to a lady who accomplished so much and poured her life into so many young people. I enjoyed this story.
I wonder how many women band directors there were during those years. I'm sure she was a pioneer. I always hear of men band directors.
Thanks for sharing the pictures and giving us a glimpse into this awesome woman's life.

Joy

Rose said...

A wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman. You were blessed to know her and have her in your life and it sounds like you knew that from the beginning.

Mandy in Mayberry said...

I loved reading about Mrs. Mac and seeing the great pictures!

Now I see that we have more in common than living in TN - I played the clarinet in the band from 7th-12th grade. I made All-West TN Jr. High Band in the 9th grade and I had a few solos too. We had a great director, but he didn't have quite the impact on me that Mrs. Mac had on you!

Oh, and I haven't played a clarinet since high school either! I wonder if we still remember how?

Deborah Godin said...

Great story of your musical background. Isn't it sad that so much of thsee creative studies are cut from school budgets and activities now!

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

Betsy,
What a wonderful tribute to an outstanding teacher. Sounds as though Mrs. Mac really had the interests of her students at heart. I'm so glad you have those memories of her and she was a great influence on your life. She will live on through her students. Fantastic post!

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

That is a fantastic tribute to a special Lady.I sure hope some of her family get to read this.
Blessings,Ruth

Connie said...

What a great woman she must have been. I agree with another commentor, it would be great if someone in her family could read this.

Diane said...

Great story about your hero, Betsy. Great idea, too.

Dirt Princess said...

Oh Betsy I LOVE this post! So wonderful! You never know who you will touch! I love it! I hope oneday someone will think of me this way. So wonderful!

Queen of Dreamsz said...

Hello Betsy,

What a lovely story! My Thomas played the French Horn in his school days. I loved looking at your photos..How fun to have all of that to share.

As a military brat I never stayed in any one school for more than 2 years..yep, see I told you I have traveled FOREVER! hahaha I don't have any regrets of my travels but I do miss all the baggage I've lost along the way.

My mom just recently sent me a box of old family pictures...of course, I haven't a clue of who is who!

Have a lovely day,
Stephanie

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

Betsy, so sweet of to to honor this woman who gave so much and touched so many including you!
xoxo

EcoRover said...

Nice. Many of us have been deeply influenced by that special teacher. Take the time to look them up & say "thank you" while (if) they are still alive.

Gill - That British Woman said...

great post and great photos, thanks for posting them.

Gill in Canada

Leedra said...

I had a Virginia Chesney in my life (about 35 years ago) and I took a double take. For a second I thought you were posting about her. How funny!

Leedra’s Photos For Fun

The Incredible Woody said...

She sounds like a wonderful lady. Teachers like that are few and far between!!

Mary said...

A wonderful tribute to one of the unsung heroes of your youth. I loved band, too, and was sorry when I got to college and didn't have time for it. Band teachers have to have a lot of patience!

A Brit in Tennessee said...

A wonderful tribute Betsy !
It's so special when a person influences you throughout your entire life, not only you, but many others.
What a lovely lady she must have been, how fortunate you were, to have her in your life !

Elaine said...

I so enjoyed your story, Betsy. She sounds like a wonderful lady. I just adored my first piano teacher, Miss Cannon, who was also my third grade teacher. She was really such a wonderful influence in my life and I have often wondered where she is and what she is doing today. Your post has really inspired me to take some action! :)

Small City Scenes said...

What a wonderful story and tribute to Mrs. Mac. I wish I could say I had a wonderful teacher that influenced my life but I cannot. I did go to a couple of great elementary schools and a tiny all girls high school and had lots of fun along the way.
You are so talented in so many ways Betsy.

MB

SquirrelQueen said...

Betsy that is a wonderful story of a remarkable woman. She certainly made a lasting impression on her students.

My teacher was Mrs. Kilgore, my high school chemistry and physics teacher. She taught me to think for myself and have faith in my abilities.

Judy

Daisy said...

This is a lovely tribute to Mrs. Mac. Sounds like she was a wonderful and dedicated person.

Cicero Sings said...

One of my Great Grandmothers was a Mac but I don't think she was musical. She sounds like quite the gal.