Education feature: Music director retiring

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Clovis Municipal Schools Director of Music Wayne Anderson has saved records of the Clovis High School choirs performances from his years as the choir director.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

“You swine,” the student mumbled under his breath to the teacher.

A few seconds of silence. Then, a choir room full of laughter.

The group had been working on a song in French and it was giving them some trouble. The student, Chuck Tipton of Clovis, had seen the movie The Pink Panther — the main character Inspector Jacques Clouseau spitting the words “you swine” at anyone acting indifferent to his plans.

The moment Tipton mumbled the same words, the class took hold of it and began speaking faux-French reminiscent of Clouseau.

“We had a good enough relationship that I could get away with a joke like that,” Tipton said. “It grew into a culture.”

The culture paid off when it came time to perform the song.

“And the song just danced off the stage when they performed it,” remembers Clovis Municipal Schools Director of Music Wayne Anderson.

For the 23 years that Anderson was the high school choir director, he was given pigs as gifts because of those two mumbled words.

Now, it’s one of Anderson’s fondest memories in a lifetime of music and teaching. After 35 years with the school, Anderson has decided it’s time to retire.

“I’ve been thinking about it for two or three years,” Anderson said. “I’m a God’s will kind of person and it’s time. There’s always things you’d like to accomplish but there comes a time when it’s time to retire. I’m praying daily, seeking God’s will.”

But retirement from CMS doesn’t mean a retirement from music for Anderson. He plans to continue leading music at First Baptist Church in Portales.

“Working with students is why I got into the business, from the very young to the very old,” he said.

Over the years, Anderson has been instrumental in making the school music department what it is today. Of the 29 employees in the district, Anderson hired 27 of them. He took numerous choirs to national and state level competitions.

“More honor groups have been chosen from Clovis than other cities in the state since the 70s,” he said. “So I can’t take credit for it all.”

Anderson was also involved in several community musical groups, including directing the High Plains Chorale for five years, directing music at Sandia Baptist Church for 28 years and at First Baptist in Portales.

In the fall of 2001, Anderson gathered a 300-voice choir for an Evangelistic crusade.

“He’s one of those guys you wanted to hang onto,” Tipton said.

Another of Anderson’s students, Diane DeWitt, said working with Anderson was always easy.

“He had a real good way of motivating people. High school boys are sometimes not motivated to do well, but Anderson was so good to get them to settle down and use their musical abilities,” she said. “He brought out the best in people.”

A student of Anderson’s from 1976-1979, DeWitt said she and Anderson have been friends for 30 years. Anderson sang at her wedding 27 years ago.

“He just loves life and you can tell,” she said. “He enjoys people and music and he’s very talented. It will be a big loss for the Clovis music department.”

To fill the void, CMS has hired Yucca Middle School principal Alan Dropps. Dropps said he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get back into music.

“I’m excited to work with the great music staff we have here. Music has a strong hold in Clovis and I think it will continue that way,” he said.

Dropps worked as a student teacher under Anderson, and was the high school director after him when he moved into administration.

“So I’m following him again,” he laughed. “But I’m very excited.”