Cecil Laverne Lemon

  1932 -

Cecil Lemon, a tenor, now retired and living in Maryland, taught music in two Seventh-day Adventist academies in the 1960s and then for many years in the Maryland public schools. Throughout his career he has been an active participant in choirs and a sought-after soloist.

Cecil was born in Tunnel City, Wisconsin, the third of six children of Glenn and Lillian Beatrice Baker Lemon. Music was an important activity in the home, his father being a singer and mother a pianist and organist. His father was a farmer, and when the U.S. government bought one of their farms in 1941 to establish Fort McCoy, a military base, the Lemons continued farming at two other farms they owned until 1946, at which time they moved to Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Before the move Cecil started taking piano lessons but didn't take apply himself seriously until his early teens. He attended Bethel Academy, later Wisconsin Academy, where he learned to play the alto horn (mellophone) and was in the band under Paul Hamel, an inspiring influence and family friend, who taught there for a year immediately following World War II.

After the move to Michigan, his father worked on various projects at Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, and Cecil assisted as the gymnasium, Pioneer Memorial Church, and other buildings were constructed on the campus. He also graduated from the grade school and academy at EMC, playing in the band under Hamel, who had come to the college the year the Lemons had moved to the area, through the tenth grade. Cecil also started voice lessons in his sophomore year at the academy and at that time became more interested in singing than playing.

Following graduation from academy in 1951, he worked for a year and then married Phyllis Fagala in 1952. Although both his mother and wife urged him to go to school and he enrolled at EMC in the fall of 1952, it was not willingly, as he later related:

I really didn't want to go to school because I had no goals. Although I liked music, I also liked working with mechanical things, especially cars, and enjoyed sports. Even so, they talked me into going to college that fall and I didn't like it. The day after Christmas I got my draft notice and I was very happy! I now had a two-year reprieve.

In retrospect, he feels the two years in the army provided experiences that would influence his eventual career choice. For part of that time Cecil was stationed at Camp Pickett in Virginia, where he sang in and served as an announcer for the Camp Pickett Choraliers, a choir of soldiers and featured soloists that sang only sacred music and became quite popular as they performed on the base and toured in the area. Yet another fortuitous assignment created an even greater music opportunity:

While in the army, I was stationed in Salzburg, Austria, where I was able to study music and take voice lessons. I really enjoyed that experience yet was still not sure what I wanted to do when I returned home at the end of my service. I had a friend, Marilyn Christensen, who told me "You sing well and while you could sing to a car it wouldn't appreciate it. You can always work with cars as a hobby." Another supporter who encouraged me was Sam Reed, a music teacher at the EMC.

When he returned home in 1955, Lemon had a growing family that would eventually include four daughters. He was able to run a heating business, selling and servicing home heating systems, and also take classes at EMC where he was enrolled as a music student. Eight years after being discharged from the army, he graduated with a B.Mus. in 1963. He particularly enjoyed his voice study with Minnie Iverson Wood and the enduring friendship that continued until her death in 2008.

In the fall of 1963 he accepted a position at Cedar Lake Academy in Michigan, giving voice lessons, directing the choral program, and teaching physical education. Two years later he accepted a position at Greater Baltimore Academy, where he taught music for three years.

When the upper grades of the school were moved to Hagerstown and renamed Highland View Academy, Lemon became a teacher in the Anne Arundel County public school system in Maryland, so he could more easily pursue graduate study. He taught at Marley Junior High for thirteen years and then at Corkran Middle School for twelve years. He subsequently completed a master's degree in music at Towson State University in Baltimore and then a D.M.A. at the University of Alabama in vocal performance and conducting.

Lemon has been active in Adventist, Lutheran, and Methodist churches during his career. He has sung as a hired tenor soloist for over forty years in the Lutheran Church of the Holy Comforter in Baltimore, providing a total of 45 years of service for that congregation. He also sang with the Baltimore Opera Company for four years and with numerous choral groups.

In 1983, he married Ingrid Miller. They now reside in Odenton, Maryland, where he continues to give piano and voice lessons.


Sources: Interview with Cecil Lemon, 1 August 2012; Andrews University alumni magazine, Focus, Fall 2005, 37. 2003 AU Alumni Directory, 263; Lake Union Herald, 2 July 1963, 6; 6 April 1965,7; September 1995, 23; Columbia Union Visitor, 7 October 1965, 9 and 11 January 1968, 15; The Youth's Instructor, 11 August 1953, 12, 13 (Camp Pickett Choraliers).