June 23, 2011

Fifty Years of Tickling the Ivories

Ann Luther has been a regular behind the piano at area events the past 50 years. She is pictured here in 2001 with director Lori Fulk during a Community Players' practice.

by Hannah Kiddoo

Ann Luther is an area musical staple. She's held the position of church organist for both the First Presbyterian and Christian churches in Memphis and has been a fill-in at churches across the Midwest and Florida. She co-founded and has been a main musician for the Memphis Community Players and has taught many "tiny fingers" how to play. She's been a go-to accompanist for countless weddings, funerals and special events.

For 50 years, Ann has been regularly playing piano in one position or another. As the occasion is marked, she is causing those who have been touched by her musical talents to reflect on the impact she has had in Scotland County and beyond.

Ann's music talents were rooted at a young age. She began playing piano as a child and went on to major in music at Central Methodist College. There she learned other instruments, but focused on honing her piano and organ skills. After moving back to Memphis with husband John Ed, Ann began playing for local churches and was recruited for numerous other activities in the community.

Her son, David Luther reflected on how growing up around the musical talents of his mother influenced his childhood: "Her love of music definitely shaped the lives of all three of her sons. It was not unusual to hear music wafting through the house at all hours. Because she has always been a perfectionist with her playing, she would practice constantly. On Saturday mornings I would often awake to kids taking music lessons."

Among her many former students is Joan Cotton DeBoe. DeBoe, who now lives in Columbia, Missouri, connects her love of playing piano with her early lessons from Ann.

"It was the experience of Ann Luther that made [playing] so special. I started taking piano lessons from Ann when I was nine years old, and I loved it from the first lesson," stated DeBoe. "She made learning and performing a true joy and my life has been blessed and enriched by it."

Sharing her talents hasn't been limited to private lessons, however. Ann's activity in local performances and events has allowed her to touch everyone she has performed with and for. Those that have worked with Ann through the years seem to have nothing but praise for her talents.

"She's the best," stated Dr. Harlo Donnelson.

Donnelson, who has taken part in the Memphis Community Players with Ann since its founding, noted that her participation has been enjoyable and beneficial both for the group and the community.

Ann remarked that it has been a joy playing for many groups and events through the years, and she listed her time as the accompanist for Scotland Co. R-1 and with the Memphis Community Players, Kids In Christ's Kingdom, Evening on Broadway, and Community Choir among her most memorable positions.

Whether it's a classic holiday song or a "boogie-woogie" version of "Flight of the Bumblebees", Ann never seems to leave those listening disappointed.

"One thing I think many of us forget or take for granted is the level of professionalism and talent she brings to her playing. I have watched professional musicians watch her as she plays, and you can tell by the look on their faces that are thinking, 'Wow, this lady can play'," commented David Luther.

Currently, Ann serves as a substitute for various churches and organizations in the community and will continue to visit family and friends during trips to Florida.

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