Allie Brooks

While growing up, some of us heard music primarily on the radio, in school and in the church.

Holmes Elementary School in Florence School District One was on the northeast corner of Jeffords and Cheves streets, the current site for Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in east Florence. One of the many outstanding features of Holmes Elementary School was its Glee Club for girls, under the direction of Narcissa B. Richardson Dargan, now deceased.

In preparation for public performances and rehearsals, Richardson Dargan would have the girls run laps around the playground and monitor the lunch trays for sweets, which the girls could not have. Richardson Dargan prepared the Glee Club with discipline and well-structured rehearsals.

The repertoire of music ranged from the singing of “Sanctus” to contemporary music. The love and care she had for her students was evidenced daily. The community looked forward to the Glee Club’s superb performances at school and churches in the community, as well as some of the out-of-town guest performances.

I specifically remember the Glee Club having performed at an occasion that featured collegiate chorales. The organizers were so impressed with the performance of the Glee Club, they offered an apology for not having an award to present to Richardson Dargan and the Glee Club members.

Today, many former members of the Holmes Elementary School Glee Club use their melodious soprano, alto and contralto voices in church choirs, other musical groups and varied settings. I mention these happenings because for many who had similar experiences in other schools, it was the beginning of music appreciation in our lives.

Fast forward to high school. Back in the day, we were blessed to have Leon Harvey and Christine Oliver produce one of the best marching, concert and jazz bands and chorales in South Carolina. Except for the students who lived in the rural areas, we walked to and from rehearsals that were conducted after school.

Thanks to Harvey and Principal Gerard A. Anderson, the concert band from Virginia State College, Petersburg, Virginia, was scheduled between 1960 and 1964 to perform in the auditorium at 1200 N. Irby St., now Bethel Apostolic Church. At those concert performances, I developed a love for classical music.

The playing of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony by the Concert Band has made that selection one of my favorites today. Works by Handel and other baroque artists attract my attention, too. “Moon River,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “I Hear a Voice a Praying” are just a few of the songs sung by a choir of more than 125 members.

Principal Anderson allowed both the concert band and choir from Wilson to compete in the state competition in Columbia, where both groups received a rating of (1) for excellent performances. These experiences, like today, at South Florence, West Florence, Wilson and other schools with band and choral programs, add enrichment to the curriculum for students. Such experiences help cultivate a love and appreciation for a variety of music. Like love, music is a universal language.

Regardless of the diversity of the persons singing, playing or humming various musical pieces, we give a listening ear to the specific sacred or secular music when we hear it. Too, because we recognize the music, we can sense the person or persons expressing a happy, sad, dramatic or other emotion.

How beautiful it is when a church service is blessed with beautiful music.

Music allows us to express our feelings that at times might be overwhelming. Sometimes it is in a group setting. Other times it’s private and personal. Today’s use of head phones help facilitate our being disciplined to not invade the space of others while enjoying our musical preference.

The various types of music are used for different occasions — dance, study, meditation. Some research contributes some music toward helping calm anxiety and keeping our mood calm and relaxed. Other research indicates that music at an early age develops strong vocabulary and non-verbal reasoning skills.

For us to be able to tune in to a particular radio station or play a certain disc or tape that fits our mood is comforting. Saturday and Sunday mornings I briefly tune in to Symphony Hall on Sirius XM (76) radio. I love hymns and other church music, so I tune in to 91.7 FM on Sunday morning, afternoon and evening, as well as 98.5 FM and Sirius XM (64).

All of us have our favorites. One of Martin Luther King’s favorite spirituals was “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” One of my favorite secular music stations feature all of the Motown groups.

Nevertheless. …

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

— Billy Joel

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

— Leonard Bernstein

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Allie E. Brooks Jr. is the former superintendent of Florence School District One and the past principal of Wilson High School.

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