The Music Man Died

My heart is saddened as I think about losing someone as dear as Charlie Sanders.

My five siblings and I were all in chorus at Central High School, spanning a period of seventeen years. Though we were taught a love for music at home, Charlie expanded that love as he exposed us to different genres of music. We learned music theory, diction, and how to crescendo and decrescendo, among other elements of vocal presentation.

To sit under his tutelage was like unto learning to paint from Picasso. Mixed Chorus, meaning boys and girls, met during the first class period of the day. What a way to start the day! We warmed up doing scales. The first sopranos climbed the scales to a B flat and sometimes higher, though we started coughing and squeaking at about that range.
We learned every type of music, music that often contained eight part harmony. He taught us to listen to each other as we sang, so that we could learn to blend our voices. This is what produced such a rich sound.

Our high school auditorium was large, but not big enough to seat all the people who wanted to hear our concerts, so Charlie had to rent the Knoxville Civic Auditorium, which seats more than a thousand people. We sold out every night we performed!

Every year, at our Christmas concert, we sang two songs in partictular. “The Little Drummer Boy”, and “Let There Be Peace on Earth” For those numbers, he put some of us in the balcony, for surround sound effect. I recall how he would get teary eyed as he relayed how the little drummer boy would have felt to play for the Christ child. He made us feel like we were that child, so that when we performed the song, it really came from the heart. He had that gift to pull music out of your soul.

His teaching produced many successful musicians. One of the girls in my class has owned an Opera House in New York City for twenty-five years.

Sometimes he would get mad at us and break his baton on the music stand or break a pencil in two. That usually settled us down. Mixed Chorus was my first period class. I hadn’t completed an assignment for Mr. Douglas’s Civics class so I was working on it during chorus. Mr. Sanders stopped the choir, pointed at me and said, “Pamela, whose class are you doing homework for?”. I was mortified, but I answered, “Mr. Douglas’ Civics Class.” to which he replied, “Well, since you have been doing Civics in Chorus, you can sing a solo in Civics.” My face was still burning red when the bell rang. He marched me down to Mr. Dougalas’ class and stood there while I sang for the class. It was one of the most embarrassing moments in my life! LOL I never did homework during Chorus or any other class after that!

He was a guest at our dinner table on several occasions before I was old enough to go to CHS. About three years ago, I was visiting my sister Donna, in Knoxville. She had invited Charlie over that night. I hadn’t seen him since high school, but he hadn’t changed a bit. We laughed as I recounted the incident regarding my homework. What a blessing and honor it was to stand beside him and sing, as my sister played the piano. That night he shared with us about the cantatas he had written. He loved his church choir, too. He had planned to retire at 70, but was still going strong until five weeks ago. He slipped away peacefully this morning.

Memories of CHS and chorus flooded my mind. My mind’s eye can still visualize the people in that room. I remember the musical Carnival that we did with Modern Dance Troupe, and what a thrill it was for all of us to sing in the Knoxville Civic Auditorium. No other high school choirs could compare to those of Charlie Sanders.

A couple of years ago I took the album we made in 1967 and had it put on CD. It’s a bit scratchy here and there, but The Little Drummer boy is still clear as a bell.  I worked for hours this morning trying to apply it to this post, but I am not computer savvy enough to do it.

Charlie will be missed here on earth, but we know that he will live forever in heaven, about which he sang nearly all of his life.

At this holiday season, he would be the first to say, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Pam’s other blogs:

www.archerfitpress.wordpress.com

www.idoweddings.wordpress.com

www.pamelaseventdesign.com

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7 Comments on “The Music Man Died”


  1. Great way to remember your Charlie. Amazing the impact such a great teacher has on the lives of others.


  2. Oh, Pam–
    What a touching tribute to a much beloved teacher. I had wanted to have a surprise luncheon for my piano teacher and invite several of her former students. (She taught many of us in my class.) I had it all planned out in my head when I found out she had passed away months earlier. So, it does go to show that we need to celebrate those in our lives on a daily basis and do so before it’s too late.
    It sounds like you and Charlie Sanders had a wonderful relationship and one that was celebrated, indeed. Thank you for sharing this special story.

  3. Joyce Mason Says:

    Pam, what wonderful memories! Singing in choirs is at the top of my list of the great joys of my life. “Let Their Be Peace on Earth” is not just a holiday song to me; it’s a life motto. I appreciate knowing Charlie in this wonderful post, and it affirms again that music is the universal language which does so much to align us with our true loving selves. I’m so sorry for your loss but so happy for what you gained knowing Charlie.

  4. Becky Green Bowman Says:

    Pam, I graduated from CHS in 1971 and it was such a pleasure to be in chorus for all 4 years of high school. To this day I use the training he taught me. I’m still amazed at how he coaxed such a marvelous sound from such young and rough voices. A few years ago I was singing w/ my church group in Brazil. The very first song sung at one church was “Let There Be Peace on Earth” in Portuguese. It was simply wonderful to sing by their side in English. Others in the group kept asking me,”How did you know that song?” I told them I learned it in high school. What a wonderful song taught to us by a talented teacher. That simple song was how he hoped we would live our lives. He made a strong imprint on many, many people throughout his life and will be sorely missed.

  5. Kellie Bryan Says:

    Thank you so much for this posting, Pam. Charlie was my grandfather and voice teacher, and I love hearing these stories about him. They remind me of his love of music, talent, sense of humor, and feisty attitude. Hearing stories like yours brings laughter to the days made gray by grandpa’s absence.

  6. John Paget Says:

    Thank you so much for this posting, Pam.

  7. David Noah Says:

    Pam, I sang for Charlie 1956-59. I have CDs of four concerts during that period, if you will email me your address.


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