Troy celebrates influence of music on community

Published 10:50 pm Monday, May 7, 2012

Mayor Jimmy Lunsford has joined communities all across the nation in celebrating music by proclaiming the week of May 6-13 National Music Week in Troy.

“Music is the common denominator for people of all nations,” Lunsford said. “Music is one of the greatest forces in creating peace and harmony throughout the world.”

The Alabama Federation of Music Clubs and the National Federation of Music Clubs of which the Troy Music Club is a member are dedicated to encouraging young musicians, increasing musical knowledge and to advancing American music.

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“This week is a time to direct our attention to the dynamic influence of music in everyday living,” Lunsford said.

Bobbie Swisher, Troy Music Club vice president, said that Troy has a rich heritage of music appreciation, education and participation.

“We have a musical heritage that we enjoy and take pride in remembering,” Swisher said. “One member of the Troy Study Club who has had a huge impact on music, especially vocal music, is Jerry Spann.”

Spann retired from the Troy Public School System after 34 years of teaching vocal music to Troy youths.

He arrived in Troy in 1956 and followed Jean Barr, who went to teach at then Troy State University.

“Back then, everything was rote learning at first, just singing – no materials to teach from, no piano, no record player for listening to music,” Spann said. “As the years passed, we had grade-level song books, a record player and finally a piano on stage.”

Each class performed a music program for the school and Spann would lead the singing at all school assemblies.

In 1976, Spann and Joyce Conrad produced a music program for the nation’s Bicentennial celebration, and from that came the tradition of the fifth-grade musicals.

“The musical involved all the fifth grades and was usually one of the Walt Disney stories, such as ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ” Spann said. “The play was complete with tryouts, costumes (that were most often made by parents), acting, singing, background music and lights. Recordings of the musical were frequently played at high school graduation parties.”

Dr. Phil Kelley, who directed many musicals at Troy University, said that incoming students often cited the fifth-grade performances as part of their acting experience.

Another Troy Schools’ tradition was “The Nutcracker Suite.”

At Christmas, Spann would tell the story behind each part of the composition with the music playing in the background. Once he started it, he was never able to relinquish it. Each year, ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ was repeated by popular demand.

Special recognition came to the area in the early 1970s when Troy was selected as one of five locations in the United States for IMPACT, a project designed to integrate the arts into the academic courses, especially history and English.

Spann was responsible for the musical arts, Betty Wagoner for the visual arts and Bob Goss for dance. Goss was the coordinator of the project, which lasted for two years and three summers.

“The IMPACT project resulted in the formation of the Troy Arts Council because those involved worked closely with the Alabama State Council on the Arts,” Wagoner said.