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Betty Allen Chowning Auditorium is dedicated

by Tom Chillemi

Betty Allen Chowning instilled the love of music that has lasted a lifetime for many of her former Middlesex High School choir students. Some students came to her with voices that cracked and were off key. They left with the joy of singing.

The MHS auditorium where Mrs. Chowning presented so many concerts during her 29 years as choir director and music teacher was dedicated as the Betty Allen Chowning Auditorium on May 26. “This room means a lot to me,” said Mrs. Chowning after accepting a plaque from school superintendent Rusty Fairheart. “Teaching has been my privilege. Being with young people makes you feel young.”

During the ceremony, former students, who spanned decades, gave testimonials to Mrs. Chowning’s dedication. “When you sang in her class, you stood up straight, pushed from the diaphragm and projected your voice,” said Kathy Page, a former student who is now a guidance counselor at MHS. “She is a great role model. There is no one in the world I adore more than Mrs. Chowning.”

Don Geeson still enjoys singing in the Chesapeake Chorale and at Christ Episcopal Church many years after being in Mrs. Chowning’s choir. “She instilled in me the love of music . . . it’s the universal language. I’ve had many choir directors, but never had one as good as Betty.”

Former student Sandra Walton said, “Because of her influence, I went on to major in music.”

Scott Krejci, former rector of Christ Episcopal Church, said Mrs. Chowning had a great talent and the ability “to take a small group and make them sound fantastic.”

Al Mason, Mrs. Chowning’s son-in-law, flew in from Florida for the dedication. Mason met Mrs. Chowning when he was 14 years old. “Little did I know you would be my mother-in-law,” he told her. “You’ve been an inspiration through the years.”

Mason first met Mrs. Chowning’s daughter Jane (his future bride) in the MHS auditorium, now the “Betty Allen Chowning Auditorium.”

Middlesex music teacher Daphne Guill said when she came to work in the Middlesex Public Schools, Mrs. Chowning “took me under her wing.” Guill said her guidance helped her immeasurably. They developed a strong bond—so much so that Mrs. Chowning became the Godmother for Guill’s daughter Beth.

Beth took piano lessons from Mrs. Chowning before she started first grade. “She’s the reason I play saxophone every day,” said Beth. 

Sandra Lesofsky, a former MHS guidance counselor, said she was always trying to keep up with Mrs. Chowning’s fast pace. “She had high standards for the children,” said Lesofsky. “She knew they could do it.”

Lesofsky said many times she would find flowers on her desk that Mrs. Chowning had cut, arranged and placed there. “I’m so delighted this auditorium is named after her,” she said.

posted 06.01.2011

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