(ran PT edition)
"Music has always been an integral part of my life," says Sally Johnson, 87.
She has been active in the Thursday Musicale since 1962 and is the oldest member of the group that has served the community for 50 years.
"My earliest memories are of my mother singing to me," Mrs. Johnson said.
At 7, she was singing solos in her Methodist Church in Greensburg, Pa. At 18, she went to school in Washington, D.C., and once again the music played.
"While attending a concert, I met my future husband, Olif, a clarinetist in the U.S. Army Band," she said. "Because of that chance meeting, we went on to share almost 58 years of beautiful music together."
When the couple moved to New Port Richey in 1962, they met Jeannette Hewitt, a charter member of the Thursday Musicale and the organizer of the Richey Instrumental Ensemble, later known as the Richey Community Orchestra. Olif Johnson was recruited to join the orchestra and became its first leader; Sally Johnson was sponsored to join the Thursday Musicale and sing in the Women's Chorus.
"There were only about a dozen members of the Women's Chorus at that time. Now the chorus is composed of 50 women," she said.
Largely through the efforts of the Thursday Musicale, music became a part of the school curriculum and Richey Elementary School hired its first music teacher.
"The school became a project of the Thursday Musicale and in 1964 a check was presented to purchase music teaching aids and instruments," she recalled.
Mrs. Johnson said that from that small beginning, the Thursday Musicale has continued to support music in the public schools. Each year, three to five scholarships of $500 each are awarded to high school seniors who plan to major in music in college.
Mrs. Johnson said she is grateful to the community for supporting efforts to improve and expand the cultural climate of the area.
"I am happy to have had a small part in this growth," she said.
When Mrs. Johnson isn't busy with rehearsals for concerts (2 p.m. the first Thursday of the month at the First Baptist Church in downtown New Port Richey), she enjoys gardening and outdoor work, taking care of her house and visiting her son Charles and his wife, Feriel, in Atlanta. She also is active in the West Pasco Museum and Historical Society, is a member of the Performing Arts Guild and is a supporter of the Richey Community Orchestra.
The Thursday Musicale concerts are free and are scheduled October through April. Donations are accepted for the scholarship fund.