Acceptance speech at WV Choral Arts Foundation Gala for Lifetime Achievement Award -
Saturday, March 31, 2001

This affair was a masked ball and many of my family members and lifelong friends were present,
so it was truly a "special occasion."


galagirl.jpg (224807 bytes)

L to R. cousin, Jean Ann Caussin, Olga,  granddaughter, Lauren,
sister-in-law, Freda, daughter-in-law, Donna

I gave my first piano lesson when I was in the ninth grade. Lucille Walls, my science teacher, asked me to work with her daughter, Linda. Soon I had a second student, a little girl who lived in the Broadway section of Clarksburg. Every Saturday morning I got on the city bus, traveled to Broadway and gave my second piano lesson of the week. Today, I still do basically the same thing, with a lot more education and experience, of course. And there have been many intervening years in the public schools of Harrison County. Every year for 16 years, 600 students went through my classroom at Central Junior High School. For the last 16 years of my career, when I became the Music Supervisor of Harrison County Schools, I got to enjoy every music student in the county. What a blessing my career has been!

When Michelle called and asked if I would accept a Lifetime Achievement Award, I said, "Only if it doesn't mean my lifetime is over." My work with students is such a joy, I would love for it to go on and on.

I owe such a debt of gratitude to my ancestors, who came from the north and mid-west of France in the late 1800's to work in the flat glass industry. My maternal grandfather sang in the local Catholic church choir and my paternal grandfather played Red Label recordings of Enrico Caruso so loudly that he disturbed all the neighbors, who may not have been so fond of the classics as he was.

These wonderful old French glassworkers were unaware of the wealth of music and musicians their immigration brought to Harrison County.

Off the top of my head I can think of these: Henry Mayer, (former music supervisor,) Olga Langlett and Nellie Payez, (long-time piano teachers,) Camille Gillot (piano star of the Elks Club,) Fern Quinaut, (great jazz pianist,) my cousin, Eugene Caussin, who arranged a wealth of music for the big band sound and even had his own orchestra, yet never had a music lesson in his life, Mary Kathryn Caussin Wiedebusch, also my cousin, who has directed the Orchesis Dance Program at WVU for 40 years, and myself.

I sincerely hope that my beloved ancestors know, as they enjoy their heavenly paradise, just how grateful I am for the love, sacrifices, and encouragement they provided to make my wonderful, musical life possible.

Now, I am losing the last living connection to my family of origin, as my precious Uncle Danton Caussin lies on his deathbed. He would have been 106 on July 7, of this year. I know for sure he is looking down on us with love and a song in his heart.

As I look over this beautiful crowd of merry-makers, I see so many who have contributed so much to the joy of my life - the first of which is Mary Ann Angotti. Mary Ann and I have laughed and cried more together over the past 55 years than anyone I know. She has provided the piano accompaniment for most of the choirs I have had over the years. To her, I am most sincerely grateful for her talent, love, encouragement, and friendship. (Please stand, Mary Ann and Johnnie B.)

(Ad Lib Acknowledgment of the following who were in attendance:  Libby Summers & Don Gardner; Michelle Audia Palmer; Betty Audia; Victor Folio; Pat Solomon & Ron; Jean & Ben Hardesty; Helen Louise Frashure and Jim; Jerry Flowers; Jean Ann Caussin, my cousin; Freda D'Andrea, my sister-in-law; Larry and Sarah Carr Parsons; & Stephen and Donna Maxwell)

My three sons: Michael & his wife, Donna; Mark, our camera-man; & John David & wife, Diane, who couldn't be here. My lovely granddaughter, Lauren Hardman. Two wonderful grandsons, Danny and Philip, who live on opposite coasts and could not be here either.

And now, I wish to humbly thank the Choral Arts Foundation for this beautiful tribute and finally share with you my philosophy of teaching.


"A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove - but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."

                                      ~George Barton

"It takes a village to raise a child".

                                      -African Proverb

"My greatest joy has always been being part of the village."