When Dr. Stan Pethel, longtime faculty member and chair of fine arts at Berry College, decided to commission a book celebrating the 100th anniversary of music making on the world’s largest campus, he didn’t have to look beyond his own daughter, Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel, to find a historian who would bring an insider’s perspective to the project.
“Throughout my childhood, Berry music was an all-encompassing part of my life,” said Mary Ellen, an alumna of Rome High School and Berry College who earned her Ph.D. in history from Georgia State University in 2008. “I remember trips to the Hoge Building and Ford Auditorium, concerts in the chapel, music tours throughout the region, and countless Mountain Day picnics. At the age of 12, my first paying job was cleaning instruments and working on a new music inventory for the department. I worked all summer, earning $2.50 an hour.”
Drawing upon her own unique experiences, as well as a wealth of information provided by fellow Berry alumna Dr. Ouida Word Dickey, the Berry College Archives, noted faculty member Harry Musselwhite and other sources, Mary Ellen brought her father’s vision to life with Berry College: A Century of Making Music, a rich history featuring more than 200 vintage photographs dating back to the early years of Berry’s existence.
Mary Ellen's father couldn’t be more pleased with the book, the idea for which was first born when a fellow faculty member requested a brief history of the band program for a grant proposal he was writing.
“Music has been a part of the Berry experience since its founding in 1902,” explained Stan, a faculty member since 1973. “In the early days, it was primarily a recreational activity, but as time passed, instructors were hired and music making became a more formal venture.
“With the graduating class of 2010, there are now more than 500 total music graduates from Berry,” he added. “In addition to music majors, there are hundreds of other students who have participated in musical ensembles and added their voices to the Berry musical tapestry.”
Photos of many of these students can be found in the new book, along with beloved faculty members who played a critical role in the program’s development. Mary Ellen’s hope is that her book will ensure the prominence of music on the Berry campus for years to come.
“Martha Berry held music in high regard as an integral part of her educational mission,” the author stated. “The book is a way for the school to showcase its musical heritage. It will help bring accolades and well-deserved attention.”
Berry College, A Century of Making Music is available for purchase through the music department and at the Berry College Book Store and Oak Hill Gift Shop. It may also be obtained at local bookstores, through online retailers and at www.arcadiapublishing.com.
Mary Ellen will be signing copies of her book April 17 at the Barnes & Noble in Rome and May 15 at the Oak Hill Gift Shop. Both events begin at 4 p.m. Signed copies of the book will also be available at the Berry College Wind Ensemble’s April 23 spring concert in Ford Auditorium and at Alumni Weekend, May 21-23. Call 706-236-2289 for more information about obtaining a copy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Ellen Pethel is a native of Rome, Ga., who holds a bachelor’s degree from the Honors History Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, a master’s degree in education from Berry College and a Ph.D. in history from Georgia State University. In addition to her duties as a teacher and archivist at Harpeth Hall School, an independent college preparatory school in Nashville, Tenn., Mary Ellen is currently working on an essay to be included in the edited anthology, Their Work in the Public Sphere: Tennessee’s New Women in the New South During the Progressive Era (University of Tennessee Press, forthcoming). She is a member of the American Historical Association and the Southern Historical Association. She is also an avid traveler. Recent destinations include Fiji, China and Greece.
Prepared by student writer Lizzie Petrey.