About Mr. Spencer by Junie Morrison


mr-mrs-charles-spencerMr. & Mrs. Charles Spencer
(Photograph compliments of Charles B. Spencer)

Suffice it to say, those who know Mr. Spencer would certainly rank him as the best music teacher they’ve ever had. His influence has followed me throughout my career and his willingness to support my talent and the talents of others, is unparalleled.

I first saw Mr. Spencer when I was a student in elementary school.  Our entire school was called into an assembly one morning, where we found this young African American man who announced that we were, all of us, going to sing a song in three part harmony. To top it off, the song we were to sing would be in Latin.

I had been the pianist for my church choirs for quite a few years by then so I was intrigued by the audacious approach that was being directed toward students of our entire school, most of whom weren’t even remotely interested in music. Or anything else, for that matter.

To make a short story long, in a matter of minutes, Mr. Spencer had separated us into three groups, used one of those new fangled overhead projectors; to let us “see the notes and lyrics we were singing” and the result, I swear to you, was miraculous.  Mozart’s “Dona Nobis Pacem” was performed flawlessly by my comrades and I, within a matter of minutes. And, you know how short the attention span of elementary school kids can be.

Going forward, I had the great fortune to be taught by Mr. Spencer in high school. My first year there did not see me participating in choir.  However, at an assembly, I had the good fortune to see his choir perform… it was the most amazing performance I had ever seen or heard.

“Mozart’s “Dona Nobis Pacem” was performed flawlessly by my comrades and I, within a matter of minutes.”

Unfortunately, it was very hot that day and the lion’s share of the choir passed out on stage, going down like bowling pins, in front of everyone. This was devastating to me, so I missed the first year.  After building up my courage, I signed up for the next year on.

Needless to say, Mr. Spencer’s choir was phenomenal. We learned many lessons about life as it pertains to social interactions and being competitive in general, as well as to the state of race relations around competitions and the like.

Each day, our morning roll call would be at 6:00 a.m. We liked the class so much that we would gladly pay a fine if we were even a second late, come rain, snow or hell. Anyone who would be late would stumble into the choir room, out of breath… “Did I make it?”  We would all burst into laughter and point at the collection jar for fines. At the end of the year, we would invariably have donated enough for a new reel-to-reel tape machine for recording and critiquing our rehearsals.  Awesome.

As a result, our choir was invited to perform at every high school in the area and we never walked away without winning an award for our efforts. We were even invited, every year, to perform Handel’s “Messiah” at the city’s largest cathedral during Holy Week. Keep in mind, that we performed the entire piece from memory, which is over two hours long.

“His influence has followed me throughout my career and his willingness to support my talent and the talents of others, is unparalleled.”

From a personal perspective, I was fortunate enough to be the “student choir director” at many of our concerts; copying Mr. Spencer’s incredible techniques, of course.

To be honest with you, it is hard to speak for others, but as far as I am concerned, a lot of what I have accomplished as a professional in the music business, I owe to Mr. Charles Spencer.

–  Junie Morrison

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Handel’s “Messiah”

15 thoughts on “About Mr. Spencer by Junie Morrison”

  1. Yes Junie this is a remarkable article , I love the way Mr. Spencer took the musical approach with the class , and tapped into the mind of the youth , thank you for sharing , these are the things needed in this today’s world.

  2. I have always said that every successful Dayton group owed allegiance to Mr. Spencer, with at least one member if its group touched by his techniques. OP had Junie. Sun had Byron. If course there was Derrick and Cyndi. Lakeside. Slave had Ray Turner. I never had a national recording contract, but Steve Shockley and Tiemeyer McCain convinced Mr. Spencer to tutor our singing group after school, and he had to wait until we walked from Colonel White to Roosevelt. A year later we opened for The Delfonics AND later the Ohio Players. Yep. Mr. Spencer deserves to be at the top of any conversation about Dayton Funk. (And his wife taught me to make good oatmeal cookies in home ec)

  3. My Grandfather continues to create beautiful music through his influence and legacy still in his Golden years.
    My greatest teacher who I never took a lecture from; his words, determination to hard work and commitment to community, family and love inspire each note and step I make.

    We love you “ChooChoo” Charlie

  4. He was a legend back in the day and being at Roth I was jealous until we got Dennis Jackson to be our choir director our senior year, that was the ONLY year we could rival Roosevelt. We had myself Arthur Stokes Bruce Mills Butch Wright Dana Meyers Gwen Allman Harold Bryant Gladys Mills all great vocalist to name a few.

  5. Love this Junie! In life I as well have experienced a true spirit who guided my music path. You were and are my music mentor via recordings and basically everything you’ve ever shared. I appointed you at about the age of 10, lol! Thanks for everything, blessings always ~ Jackie Jackson

  6. Thank you so much for this AWESOME piece on my dad! I also salute my mom for hanging in there with ALL of US in pursuit of our musical dreams. I am sitting in my 7th grade classroom in Tacoma, WA…so blessed and thankful for everyone and everything that my father has imparted on the lives of so many. The LEGACY continues with me as an educator and positive role model! Debra Spencer-Grant #2 daughter:-)

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