Nancy Sloop has had a very musical life
Nancy Sloop, a retired music teacher, finds her life is busier now than when she taught elementary school. Although she taught in Cabarrus County for years, her home was in Rowan County near Enochville, What’s ironic is I was her son and daughter’s music teacher when they were students at Enochville Elementary School over twenty years ago. It wasn’t until 2011 at an Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (“DAR”) luncheon that our paths crossed again.
Nancy was attending the luncheon as a new member, while I was a guest. My husband, Michael McCullough was the speaker that day and it just so happened Nancy and I sat at the same table side-by-side. I didn’t recognize her at first, but she recognized me. After sharing who she was, we began catching up on the latest news, including what her son, Brett and daughter, Valerie were doing now.
Sitting at the table with us was a long-time DAR member and Past Regent, Trudy Hall. In the midst of conversation, she heard me mention how I had always wanted to be a DAR member, but having no clue about my ancestry thought it impossible. She said not to worry because she knew someone who could help. Sure enough, she was right. Her husband, Grady Hall, has a talent for finding long lost relatives in documents no one else can understand. In his search, he discovered I had a relative on my dad’s side who indeed had fought in the Revolutionary War. It took a year, but after the documents were verified, I became a member of the DAR.
Since Nancy and I have similar backgrounds and interests, it seemed natural for us to become good friends. Although it’s true we share similar backgrounds, we soon discovered differences in the paths we took to obtain our goals. Nancy’s story is an inspiring one of overcoming obstacles and roadblocks along the way.
Nancy’s love for music began as a little girl growing up in a small house in the shadow of Cannon Mills in Kannapolis, NC. Always wanting to sing, dance, and play the piano, the one thing holding her back was money. Her parents, both employed at Cannon Mills only made enough to pay the bills with very little left for unnecessary things like piano lessons. Nancy’s mom, Pearl Brewer worked in the sewing room hemming pillowcases, while her dad, Bill Brewer worked in the bleachery department, eventually working himself up as a mechanic for the entire plant.
Nancy said even though her family was poor, none of the six children (four boys and two girls) knew it. At the age of about eleven or twelve, she finally realized if she would ever have the opportunity to take piano lessons, she would have to earn money to help pay for a piano. Babysitting for that purpose, a year later, Nancy, with the help of her mother and grandmother, Jennie Queen, had enough money to buy a used one. By then, Nancy’s younger sister, Kay, also wanted to take lessons. With their mom and dad working, they were excited piano teacher, Dorothy McLain, made home visits, charging the grand price of $1.50 per lesson.
Having a late start taking piano lessons, Nancy knew she would have a difficult time catching up if she wanted to major in music in college. Luckily, an English teacher in high school gave her advanced piano lessons before she went to Wingate College. Thrilled to be accepted into the music program, Nancy went with the help of a scholarship from Cannon Mills. At that time, Wingate was a two-year junior college and because it was smaller, Nancy received individual attention, giving her the confidence she needed to grow and develop as a pianist.
With her heart set on getting a music degree from Meredith College in Raleigh, she was delighted when awarded a Trustee scholarship. Finding she had an uphill battle transferring from a junior college, Nancy had to go the extra mile working harder to prove herself. Graduating with a music performance degree in hand, she still felt she didn’t have the experience needed to make a living, so she went back home to Kannapolis.
Having a longing in her heart to do more with her music, Nancy talked to her dad about getting her masters degree at the University of Georgia. Happy to help, since he couldn’t pay for it, he let her live at home until she saved enough money to pay for it herself. Experienced working at Cannon Mills during summer breaks, Nancy knew she wouldn’t have any trouble getting a job and soon began making towels in the Number 7 weave room. It took over a year to save enough, but finally she did. In the summer of 1974, Nancy started graduate school at the University of Georgia.
Nancy believes graduate school was one of the best things she ever did. Maturing as a musician, she discovered through hard work and a wonderful piano professor named, Carlos Corma, things she never knew about how to practice and perform. She credits him for helping her discover important tools of musicianship.
Even after obtaining a graduate degree in Music Literature with a concentration in piano, Nancy was still having a hard time finding work in her field. Again, coming home to work in the mill, paying her dad room and board until she could get on her feet, Nancy was encouraged to go back to school to get a teacher’s degree. At the age of 26, she enrolled at UNC-Charlotte in the music education department. After receiving her teacher certification, and after many years of struggle, Nancy finally found a job in her field, taking a position as a music teacher in the Cabarrus County Schools, teaching at Wolf Meadow and Winecoff Elementary Schools.
When asking Nancy what advice she would give beginning music teachers, she said, “Offer your students a variety of learning opportunities as you teach them to sing and enjoy music. Even though children are bombarded with technology and all that goes with it, there’s nothing that can take the place of a child learning a song. They will remember not only the song, but the memories attached to it for the rest of their lives. There’s no doubt, one of the most important things a music teacher can do is facilitate a love of singing.”
Not one to rest on her laurels since retirement, Nancy plays the organ for various churches as needed and also performs with the Windsong Recorder Ensemble. This group plays at various functions in the vicinity, including the Spring Frolic at the Old Stone House in Granite Quarry. She also enjoys playing the piano for the Rowan Big Band All Stars jazz band led by Ron Turbyfill, a well-known musician and past band director at West Rowan High School. As if that’s not enough, Nancy plays percussion for the Piedmont Prime Time Community Band and during St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Charlotte plays the accordion.
It’s been a long journey for Nancy from the textile village of Cannon Mills as a little girl, to music teacher and performer.
Through it all, she has been an inspiration to many with her determination and uplifting spirit. While those early years of struggles seem so far away, they will forever be a part of who she is, stored within her memory bank to be retrieved when needed.
Perhaps her parents had it right all along. By allowing their children to stand on their own two feet, they in turn were building the foundation for strong independent adults.
Parents today can learn valuable lessons from families who lived in the shadow of the textile communities. Not rich in money, but love and commitment, they raised children who became self-sufficient, contributing members of society.
If in doubt, just ask Nancy. She can tell you all about it.
Dicy McCullough’s children’s books are available at local bookstores, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Follow her on her blog, www.dicymcculloughbooks.com/blog or contact her at 704-278-4377.