SC Arts Commission 40th Anniversary
Tell Your Story!
Individuals have submitted stories based on their experiences. The Arts Commission has not verified all facts.
My greatest moment as a first grader at Reid School in Taylors, S.C., was when my teacher played the piano for us to sing “I'm A Little Teapot.” I went home that day and sat down at the piano and began picking out the tune. From that day on I discovered I could play any tune I heard. As I grew up, the gift that my first grade teacher, Mrs. Barton, helped me develop has been passed on to my children, my grandchildren and my students that I have taught over the past 30 years.
Because I realized how important a piano was in the classroom when I began teaching (after working 19 years as a teacher's aide and going to college as an adult to get my degree to become a teacher), I bought a piano for my classroom. This led to another great moment. I was teaching “People of the Past” in Social Studies to my second grade class, and a friend came to share his dad's musical traditions and war memories when he had entertained the troops across the U.S. and Europe. As his dad was dying, my friend had worked diligently putting his dad's recordings on a CD to comfort him in his last days.
Then my friend took a Community Scholars Course through the S.C. Arts Commission, and he wrote a grant to mass produce the CD he had put together of his dad's recordings. A Hospice musical therapist, Joan Breazeale, had written a song about this soldier, Ralph D. Smith, and I taught it to my students to surprise my friend for coming to share. My friend, at the time, had brought his mom, and when those children finished singing the song, “A Soldier's Legacy,” they both were thrilled to hear those precious little voices telling that story (about my friend's father) with sincerity.
When the CD grant and a CD grant about my friend's grandfather were turned into a traveling exhibit, my students were invited to sing for the opening exhibit at the McKissick Museum by Saddler Taylor and my friend, Alda Smith, who by that time was my new husband. Twenty-two students with parents and grandparents followed me from Belton down to Columbia. I felt like the pied piper walking down that sidewalk to the McKissick Museum when I turned around to make sure they had all kept up with me, and it looked like half of Belton was behind me.
Next the exhibit came to the Anderson County Museum and then up to Newport, TN. As it traveled, my students did too. It was a great experience and exposure of the best kind. Each year I taught my new students this song and other patriotic songs. They performed at festivals, in parades and at the Veteran's Park, on television. Of course we took Mr. Smith with us, because his dad had taught him those musical traditions, and we loved to hear him sing his dad's songs, and then his grandfather's songs, that he had recorded at the age of 11 years old.
This year, due to our wonderful principal at Marshall Primary School in Belton, Dr. Kim Clardy, the school's music teacher, Mrs. Charis Murphy, and I are co-directors of the Marshall Primary Chorus, which was opened to all second graders. We now have 38 children who look forward to our practice each Tuesday. Their performances included the opening performance at the Belton Museum of “A Soldier's Legacy!” They have also sung at the Standpipe Festival this year, our own Veteran's Day Program for the entire school, and they will be performing Christmas music at the Lighting of the Christmas Tree for Belton, for the Christmas program at school, and a program in the Spring.
Thank you Mrs. Barton, for giving me, my children, grandchildren, and the hundreds of children I've had the pleasure to teach that wonderful gift of music. Thank you Alda Smith, for sharing that song and helping me to pass that gift on to the hundreds of children that have loved and enjoyed singing your dad's song, and thank you, Saddler Taylor, for giving birth to the exhibit, “A Soldier's Legacy.”
Editor's note: Alda Smith was a recipient of the 2007 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage award.
Submit your story by e-mailing Milly Hough.