Long before the television show “Glee” made it cool to be a choir kid, a petite-framed, mighty force of a musical lady had students of Louisa County and its residents excited to sing.
When Ann Porter moved to the area with her husband Bill, a former Louisa county administrator, and two children, Clay and Kate, in 1985, no one could have predicted the impact that she would have on the community, helping to build a vast appreciation for the fine arts. She generated interest from those who had never considered carrying a tune anywhere other than in their shower or car.
In her 12 years as a musical educator with Louisa County Public Schools and volunteer contributor to the Louisa Community Chorus, Porter was an inspiration to local residents with her endless talent and love for all sounds, and ability to coach and foster even the most insecure and inexperienced of performers into “Gleeks.” She made music infectious, and it was a disease that everyone wanted to catch until she moved from the area in 1997.
On Sunday, locals will once again have a chance to enjoy a Porter production when the Williamsburg resident guest directs the Louisa Community Chorus in its spring concert at the Louisa United Methodist Church. And, if the anticipated turn-out is anywhere near the crowds she could draw during all of the many musical productions on which she worked while living here, spectators might want to arrive early to ensure a seat. A second show has already been added to the afternoon as a result of high interest.
Porter said she knew early on that she was destined to have a life filled with music when she began taking daily piano lessons with her aunt at age five.
“The first new piece of furniture ever bought for our home was a piano,” Porter said. “I had very supportive parents … [and] wonderful mentors along the way who encouraged me.”
Although she has many accolades and a list of impressive credentials, Porter does not boast. She is noted for the consummate support and expert advice that she provides to other musicians, and her innate ability to place voices together in the most harmonic of ways. She maintains that time spent in Louisa was particularly special.
“My 11 years in Louisa were probably my favorite teaching years working in a community,” she said. “I had never experienced young people who so wanted to sing. There were so many talented kids.”
Porter praised several peers with whom she collaborated over the years to create some of this musical magic.
“What was really thrilling and a highlight for me was working with Peggy Sadler, Patty Driskill, Ginna Cullen and Hilda Gibson,” said Porter of her three former Louisa County High School co-workers and accompanist for most performances. She also expressed gratitude to the superintendent and faculty of LCHS at the time for being “so supportive of all our activities.”
Aside from teaching piano, guitar lessons and creating several choirs, ranging from a beginners group to the elite Chamber Chorale, a small ensemble in which students had to audition to make Porter was instrumental in bringing musical theatre to Louisa County and giving locals a little glimpse of Broadway.
Starting with “Bye Bye Birdie” the year after she arrived, Porter and her peers collaborated on several hit productions that allowed students to display their talents equal to those of any community theatre.
“That first year, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Porter. “It turned out that we turned people away from that show. The auditorium could not hold the people who came.”
The popularity of these special productions grew over the years, and from 1986 to 1996, residents began to look forward to spring to see what LCHS students would bring to the stage. The youngsters did not disappoint.
To read the entire story, see the March 27 edition of The Central Virginian.