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Retired Teachers Influenced
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Renewed interest in the music programs in the schools seems like an appropriate time to feature some of the graduates of Calhoun County High School whose lives have been shaped by their beginnings in Calhoun music programs.

The first two are sisters, Carleen Morris Dixon Webb and Barbara Morris Full, both teachers, whose interest and talents have had an impact both here and abroad.

Carleen Morris Dixon Webb

Carleen recently retired from teaching music at Annandale High School in Virginia. She taught on the elementary, secondary and college levels for 25 years.

Early years in Grantsville were influenced by the Morris and McCartney families, both of which had musical members.

The McCartney family loved to sing together, harmonizing by ear at family reunions. Uncle Donald Patrick McCartney was Carleen’s eighth grade English teacher. It was in his class, after listening to a recording of Handel’s Messiah, that she decided to major in music in college.

Her aunt, Bernice Morris Stamp, was a music teacher and pianist. Carleen started playing the piano at age seven and took lessons from Wilma Nicholson. She learned to play on her grandmother Edith Morris’ piano.

Her step-mother, Helen Morris, would play classical music to wake family members on Sunday morning. She also took Carleen to her first performance of Handel’s Messiah.

Helen’s sister, Jeanne Rampp Hart, who had degrees in piano and organ, was her piano teacher when she was a teenager. Carleen received Jeanne’s extensive music collection after her death. Carleen also played piano and organ at First Baptist Church, Grantsville, while in high school.

She attended Glenville State College for two years and then transferred to West Virginia University, where she received a BA in organ, and later earned a master of music in choral conducting from George Mason University. She also attended numerous master classes and workshops with the country’s major choral conductors throughout the years.

Carleen performed as a soloist and ensemble singer under major conductors at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and other venues in the eastern U.S. She was founder and director of professional choral ensembles in Washington, D.C., and Juneau, Alaska.

While at Annandale, the choirs achieved the highest level of artistic excellence, and ensembles were invited to perform at the White House, National Cathedral, and other venues. An exchange program with a German choir was established under her direction, which gave students the experience of touring throughout Germany, Austria and France.

“Throughout the years, I have heard from many students who tell me how music has changed their lives and that musical experiences in high school were some of their most treasured memories. Many of these students decided to pursue careers in music as a result of experiences in my classes.

“Some have gone on to careers on Broadway and opera. They have established lifelong friendships with other choral students on both sides of the Atlantic--in Virginia and Germany--through a common love of music. There are few professions where you can have such a positive influence on the lives of others. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to share my love of music with so many people,” said Carleen.

Although she retired from teaching school in June 2010, she has continued to work in church music and is music director at an Episcopal church in Burke, Va., where she is organist and director of four choirs. She plans to continue working in church music during her “retirement.”

Barbara Morris Full fondly remembers her early musical experiences in Grantsville, beginning at First Baptist Church, where her first public performance was in a duet with Carleen singing the hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”

She continued singing and making music in the church by joining the senior choir and directing the junior choir, which happened to be all boys, including her four brothers.

Barbara took piano lessons from Wilma Nicholson and Judy Hathaway and had the experience of singing under Joe Wilt in his first years at CCHS. She was selected for W.Va. All-State Chorus for two years, and was a member of Wilt’s original “girl group,” The Mistys, and participated in The Follies.

In her teaching career, Barbara taught music at Neale School in Vienna for 36 years, and developed an outstanding music program known for its high quality choral groups and theatrical productions.

Her fifth and sixth graders presented many well-known musicals, such as “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Guys and Dolls Jr.,” and “Seussical Jr.”

She taught over 2,500 students, several of whom were second generation students. It was not uncommon for students to transfer to the school for the music program.

Barbara was co-founder of the Wood County Elementary Music Festival, which began in 1996, and continues as a very important part of music in Wood County. She was on the steering committee of the festival for many years. Her students were known for their creative choreography.

Barbara Morris Full and Ben Wilson in "Beauty and the Beast."

She was chosen as Artsbridge “Educator of the Year” in 1996 and as Wood County Council PTA “Teacher of the Year” in 1999.

She has been active in community theatre, mostly at the Actors Guild of Parkersburg, where she is on the board of trustees. She has performed in over 30 shows, including “Into the Woods,” “The Civil War,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “1776,” “Barnum,” “Anything Goes,” “Damn Yankees” and “Same Time, Next Year.”

She has directed 11 shows, including “Annie,” “The Who’s ‘Tommy’,” “Doubt” and “Rent.”

Barbara has been involved with Parkersburg’s Historic Smoot Theatre, where she has performed in many concerts and has been on the staff as music instructor of Camp Vaudeville for 20 years, researching music of the Vaudeville era, and arranging, composing and writing lyrics for the Camp’s annual productions.

Since retiring, she is devoting her time to several activities. Her favorite is the newly-formed Smoot Theatre Children's Choir, which she is directing. The choir completed its first year with much success and many more children eager to join the group.

Barbara said, “This is like a dream come true--being able to direct a select group of wonderful young people who love to sing and have amazingly supportive parents. It keeps me involved with young singers, which I love, but isn’t nearly as all-consuming as teaching in a public school.”

She also enjoys being able to devote more time to her church, Trinity Episcopal, where she sings in the choir, is on the Vestry, and is in charge of her church’s monthly newsletter.

“I love to continue to learn new things and am really enjoying delving into electronic publishing, which constantly changes and improves,” said Barbara.

“Beginning with my early experiences in Calhoun County, music has been a vital part of my life and continues to bring satisfaction and life-long rewards,” said Barbara. “It is an indescribable feeling to know you have made such a difference in the lives of your students, giving them wonderful musical memories and making them music lovers for life.”

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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