Published 12:00 am Friday, March 1, 2013
As a teenager, I remember Mom talking about the chorus teacher at Salisbury High School, Rose Julian. Any time she saw Rose’s name in the newspaper for a chorus performance or a choral competition, Mom would mention she knew her.
Soon after Mom and Dad married, they moved next door to Rose’s parents, Herbert and Esther Rich in Albemarle. Rose was only 11 years old at the time. Although one year later Mom and Dad moved to Salisbury, lasting friendships had already been made.
Like other families in that day, Herbert and Esther sometimes struggled financially, but thought it important their daughter take piano lessons. Even though Rose took piano lessons until high school, her true gift was her voice. Recognizing Rose’s potential, her chorus teacher, Paul Fry, began giving her lessons.
When Rose was growing up, other people also noticed her gift. By the time she was 13 she had sung in every church in Albemarle, with her first solo a song learned in Sunday School at the age of 2. Telling the Sunday School superintendent one Sunday she wanted to sing, he let her perform for church. Not missing a beat, Rose sang, “Climb Climb Up Sunshine Mountain.” That was the beginning of a lifelong love for performance and the spotlight.
Graduating with a Music Education Degree from East Carolina University, Rose soon married and began traveling with her husband as a military wife. Having three children in three different states, Rose said after the last child was born, orders came to go to Germany.
Loving Germany, Rose described it as, “My most favorite place in the world.” When asked what she loved about it, she said, “I loved everything: the beautiful countryside, the people, the culture and the music … especially the music.”
While in Germany, Rose taught music at a dependent school for children of American servicemen and women. One of her favorite memories of that school was a field trip the 1,600 students took to see the opera, Hansel and Gretel. Looking at Rose with great surprise, I said, “You’re kidding?” Laughing, she said, “No, I’m not kidding. I don’t know how many buses it took, but every student went to see the opera.”
Rose is especially proud she had the opportunity in Germany to judge the Air Force Chapel Choir Contests for all of Europe, receiving a Superior Performance Certificate from the Department of the Air Force. During her time there, she also did concert work, even starting a professional career with Herr Otto Brawn as her coach and accompanist. This ended when her husband left the military and the family moved back to the states and Salisbury.
One month after the move, Rose flew back to Germany to perform for a live television show. Having won an audition to sing for a show hosted by Joe Ames, of the Ames Brothers’ fame, she sang “One Kiss from New Moon,” accompanied by the US Air Force-Europe Band.
Not long after that performance, Rose became the chorus teacher at Salisbury High School. Seven short years later, however, she found it necessary to resign. A single mother by then, Rose took a position with an insurance company hoping to make more money. It took nine years before she returned to her first love of teaching music.
I was teaching kindergarten at Woodleaf Elementary School about the same time Rose resigned from Salisbury High. When I left the classroom to teach music in 1987, little did I know this career change would eventually lead to meeting her.
The introduction happened when Elementary Education Specialist Dr. Martha West introduced Rose at a music teacher’s meeting. What a surprise! I couldn’t believe I was actually meeting the Rose Julian my mom had talked about for so many years. Even more of a surprise was that we were going to be colleagues.
Rose and I soon became friends and that’s when she began sharing stories about my mom and dad. The one thing that was obvious was how much she loved them. She said she couldn’t help but love them because they cared about her.
Explaining to my mom I was writing about Rose, I asked if she remembered anything that happened when living next door. Thinking for a minute, she said, “Yes, I remember one day when Rose came to our door with her hair wrapped up in a towel. I didn’t know what was wrong at first, but soon realized she had cut her hair and was hiding because she was in trouble. It didn’t take long until her mom called, telling her to come home.”
Herbert and Esther may have been strict according to today’s standards, but there was a lot of love and support in that home, evidenced by Rose having the courage to follow her dreams and passion. Although she retired from teaching 11 years ago, she stays active through playing the piano for the early service at First Baptist Church in Salisbury and singing with the Concert Choir.
The grand piano sitting in the middle of her living room today, symbolically makes the statement that, “Music has and always will be a central part of her home.” I’m sure Rose never dreamed when she took the stage at the age of two that music would take her around the world, enriching not only the lives of others, but hers as well. In the words of an old song, “Who could ask for anything more?”