Thursday, July 23, 2009
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?