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Seminole High choral 1972-1983 alumni reunite with their beloved director


When it came to Jimmy Vines' high school music students, everybody was celebrated. That's how it was in the 1970s. That's how it was in the 1980s. And that's how it is today. Thirty-odd years later, Seminole High's former choral director and his wife, Maureen, greet former students as if the time lapse had never happened.

"You were 'Boo Boo' then and you're 'Boo Boo' now," Maureen Vines tells the alumni matter-of-factly. "You all are still our kids."

No matter that these "kids" have been adults nearly two-thirds of their lives. They'll reunite Friday for festivities, and give a concert Saturday night.

For Vines, who taught choral music at Seminole from 1972-1983, the SHS Choral Reunion "Sentimental Journey" is a dream come true.

Vines wasn't sure it would ever happen until he had a conversation with one of his former students, Michelle "Shelly" Close Mills of Largo. She graduated in 1977 after collecting 10 medals from vocal competitions under Vines' direction. It came up as they were looking through old photos.

That was two years ago. They decided to shoot for this summer and the Vines' and Mills started finding people on Facebook.

"We've made contact with students I never thought I'd hear from," Jimmy Vines said.

Lisa Vines, the Vines' daughter and also member of the reunion choir alumni, designed T-shirts for the singers, and Michael Lo Bue, pipe major for St. Andrews Pipes & Drums created the website.

• • •

Rehearsals are held at Grace Christian Fellowship Church, the venue for Saturday's reunion concert. Many from Seminole High's Concert Choir, Seminole Singers and Seminole Selebration participate. Vocalists include several alumni who followed the music career path. And musical selections are a mix of pop, patriotic and classical pieces such as Vivaldi's Gloria, and spirituals such as Poor Man Lazarus. They expect about 50 participants all told.

At a recent rehearsal, the alumni harmonize in quick tempo, watching Vines' every turn as he directs them through the spiritual's dizzying rounds and sizzling key changes.

"Dip your finger in the water, come and cool my tongue …"

The harmonies are still there. Effortless, it's on to the next song.

"Ohhh, don't cha know, right, right up the road, if ya just call me… oh, call me … ohhh call me."

Mills recounts her experience working with Vines for chorus and Seminole Singers, a mixed ensemble that performed throughout the Tampa Bay area. She says their beloved director could be tough.

"Some couldn't take him," Mills said. "He was trying to push you to be the best, and if you were a slacker, you had to leave. Any coach in any sport is not going to handle you with kid gloves."

But Vines, she said, always let them know he cared. "I never doubted that he loved us — not for a minute."

There was always comic relief amid the rigorous schedule.

"The funniest memory was when Mr. Vines was hollering and everyone was talking," Mills remembered. "I'd see him reach across the podium and grab the yardstick and hit it as hard as he could. … Everybody just jumped. I was always seated on the end, so I could see him reaching for it. I'd go 'uh-oh' and he'd whack it and splinters would fly everywhere."

Vines, who studied music at Auburn University and received his master's degree at the University of South Florida, keeps his humor about his tough demeanor. There was one performance where he admits he almost "lost it."

"The kids were cracking up while they were singing and doing the choreography. I didn't know why," Vines said. "I was mad — blowing smoke out of both nostrils and losing more hair. Then I saw why."

He laughed, recalling the big palmetto bug racing back and forth in front of the singers.

• • •

Carrie Lee Deal Gissiner, coming to the reunion from Lexington Park, Md., remembers the exhilarating state competition.

"The concert choir was doing the Battle Hymn of the Republic," she said. "You knew you nailed it, when the hair on your arms was standing straight up."

"Gonna make a sentimental journey, to renew old memories …"

Lo Bue, who created the reunion website, looks forward to reminiscing. They used to tell each other, "This will be one of those 'remember when' moments," he said. "Now we're talking about them."

"Gotta take that sentimental journey … sentimental journey home."

Mary Madama Ward, a music teacher from Sylva, N.C., graduated in 1979. She has deep-rooted reasons for attending.

"I was so shy and withdrawn" she said of her high school years. "The core people in the choral department were committed Christians and just influenced my life. It was like (the movie) Mr. Holland's Opus," she said "Mr. Vines was such a musician. He got so much music out of us."

That's why she says it's important to come back.

"As a teacher, it's no greater joy to me when (students) go on and find their niche, their place, and I know I was instrumental," Ward said. "My life may not have taken that path without him."

Around the grand piano, the group smiles. It's not uncommon to rehearse a line again. Nobody minds. They love what they do. They love the bond.

"Gonna make a sentimental journey, to renew old memories …"

"Sopranos and tenors," Vines bellows, then softens. He makes a last-minute change.

Vines wants it light, and just like old times, he wants it right. After all, he knows what it takes to please an audience.

"I think the people will enjoy the concert and the rapport of students being together after 28 to 39 years," Vines said as the corners of his mouth stretched into a wide grin. "I think it's kind of uplifting, don't you?"

>> Fast facts

If you go

The Seminole High School Reunion Concert "Sentimental Journey" will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday at Grace Christian Fellowship, 901 Ridge Road, Largo. Admission is free. Donations will be accepted. For information, visit


Name: James "Jimmy" Aubrey Vines Jr.

Age: 78

Family: He was born in Alabama and lives in Seminole with Maureen, his wife of 46 years. He has two daughters and two grandsons.

Education: Vines has degrees from Auburn University and USF and taught for 42 years, including being Seminole High choral director from 1972-1983. He taught science from 1983 until his retirement in 2006.

Seminole High choral 1972-1983 alumni reunite with their beloved director 06/14/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 4:49pm]
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