Thank you for visiting these pages and sharing your thoughts! We have had to remove the self-entry system due to 'spamming', however we encourage entries via e-mail submission to the webmaster!
Glad to see that you're down in this area Dr. Sumerlin! See you soon!
Dean Brown <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Houston, TX USA - Wednesday, September 01, 2004 at 19:23:09 (CDT)
Thank you for the gifts of music and invention, Dad.
mike sumerlin <email@example.com>
houston, tx USA - Thursday, September 02, 2004 at 20:55:20 (CDT)
Thank you, Cousin Macon for the music, the stories, the beatiful smile and the love and support. Keep playing...keep writing...keep smiling. I love you, Lindabug
Linda Ohnesorge <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Midland, TX USA - Monday, September 13, 2004 at 06:42:42 (CDT)
Dr. Sumerlin: Thanks for all the patience you showed as I sometimes struggled with Theory. Thanks, too, for the deep appreciation you instilled concerning the complexities of music and style. Your teaching will stay with me forever!
Steve Harter <email@example.com>
Colorado Spring, CO USA - Monday, September 13, 2004 at 13:44:49 (CDT)
What a terrific idea this is! I've been touched by Macon's genius since the late 1940's when, as a high school student, I presumed myself into his summer beginning theory class. He treated me as if I deserved to be there. I've admired and been somewhat in awe of Macon ever since. And I'm so grateful for my friendship with Macon and Bobbie which has endured now for more than fifty years. John's poignant sketch of his father as a parent, teacher, composer, musical innovator and human being belongs in some pantheon among son-to-father odes of love and gratitude. I loved reading it. I will see that others do as well.
Ed Nichols <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Austin, TX USA - Tuesday, September 14, 2004 at 10:04:22 (CDT)
Dr. Sumerlin - What a special honor to have this web site dedicated to you! I hope you hear from many former students/friends who have not been in touch with you for awhile. I also hope that you enjoy your new location. You are still a member of the McMurry University Retiree Fellowship, and will be getting mail from that group. This website is a wonderful thing! Gretchen Tucker, Alumni Researcher/Writer, Retiree Liaison, McMurry University, Abilene, TX 79697 325-793-4614
Gretchen Tucker <email@example.com>
Abilene, TX USA - Thursday, September 16, 2004 at 11:12:12 (CDT)
Dr. Sumerlin: You continue to be such an influence in my life. I remember singing your piece, "From America" on tour in Vienna back in 1976. I remember singing, "Job" and still today, when I read the scripture, I receive goosebumps as I hear the musical phrase in my head; "I will question and you will answer me, Job." It is memorable and is as alive in me today as it was in 1974. I love your abilty to modulate, which is not the most common by western standards. I love your use of dissonance and consonance and the way it converges upon a melody. In my compositions I still hear things in my head and I think, yes that is a Sumerlin type progression. Every day I thank God for your teaching. I guess the greatest tool would be the use of solfeggio. And secondly, the use of solfeggio in "hearing" chordal and modal changes in the music "in my head", a process that, thanks to you, I do, but still have trouble explaining it to my students as you did so elequently. You taught me to recognize and appreciate musical form in many musical genres. You taught me to love music and understand music and to hear music all around me. That probably came from being able to hear some of the sounds you developed as you pioneered midi systems. It gave me an appreciation for the little sounds that effect us in life. A rumble or a chirp can be music no matter how random it may seem. It all can be form in the grander scheme of life. How blessed I am to be one of the many who studied under you and Bobbie. I pray that my student's students will be able to benefit from the incredible teaching I received from you. Blessings, Richard Burke, (opera and concert singer, voice instructor, choral conductor, composer and blues guitarist) Abilene, Texas
Richard Burke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Abilene, TX USA - Thursday, September 16, 2004 at 21:31:08 (CDT)
Dr. Sumerlin: I had to add another thought to your guest book. This past Sunday in church as I was turning to the morning scripture, I encountered something that I had placed in my Bible 30 years ago as a reminder of a special event. It is a copy of the words to "The Voice From the Tempest". It was such a pleasure and honor for me to sing that piece (with Mrs. S. directing!!)in 1974 at Cooper High School! In my 24 years of professional church music, I have never run into another setting of the text from the book of Job. The piece is so moving and dramatic! I cherish the recording that I have of the Cooper Concert Choir singing that piece. Of course, it was then my pleasure and honor during my four years at McMurry to sing your incredibly challenging music. Thank you for that challenge and privilege! Your music is truly inspiring!
Steve Harter <email@example.com>
Colorado Spring, CO USA - Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 15:51:24 (CDT)
I just want you to know that I really do use the music theory I learned from you. I sing in the Dallas area and have a band. I write original music for my band to perform and even though I never went the formal music route, I use the things I learned in music theory class all the time. Thank you!
Added by the webmaster --- e-mail from Cindy --
I dropped Dr. Summerlin a thank you note for teaching me music theory. I didn't know how to say it, but he taught me music in a way that I could apply it how ever I want.... I don't have to write it out formally-- which in my situations would be a waste of time in most cases... most of the players I work with want chords or the I, IV, V kind of stuff. He taught us how to communicate our music to anyone and what it takes to create a composition.... (or "make up a song" as it is in my case.) I always feel like I'm not a composer because I don't ever put it on peice of sheet music..... but I do feel I know how to write a song because of what he taught me.
Cindy Maloney <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Denton, TX USA - Tuesday, February 01, 2005 at 16:37:58 (CST)
I heard with sadness about Dr. Sumerlin's passing this week. But I also am filled with thankfulness for the impact he had on my life. In virtually no other classes during all I've had in earning my four degrees, was I challenged any more than I was in Freshman Theory. I still use what Dr. Sumerlin taught me when I stand up with the choir of the church where I am pastor and sing the anthem with them sight unseen! I'm grateful I got to see Dr. Sumerlin a two or three years ago at McMurry Homecoming when Dr. Blackburn was there with all of us for a 75-78 Chanters reunion. Even though it had been over 20 years since I had seen him, he remembered me right off and asked me if I was doing any writing of music for the choir of my church. He will be missed. Some of us who are former students are talking about joining together to make contributions toward a memorial gift to the Music Department at McMurry in his honor. If you're interested in this development, you're welcome to contact me.
Rev. Jason Fry, D.Min. <email@example.com>
Kingsville, TX USA - Wednesday, February 09, 2005 at 17:39:45 (CST)
I realize I made an error in my post. I actually only have three degrees. You'd think I'd remember that since the last one, called a "terminal" degree, almost did me in!
Jason Fry <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Kingsville, TX USA - Wednesday, February 09, 2005 at 17:41:36 (CST)
Dr. Sumerlin life will live on in the hundreds if not thousands of people he touched, if not personally through his endearing music.
We all love and will miss you.
Lynn Malson <email@example.com>
Richardson, TX United States - Thursday, February 10, 2005 at 06:57:05 (CST)
So sorry to hear about Dr. Sumerlin. It's hard to realize that it has been nearly 30 years since I first stepped into "Freshman theory." I still have the sight singing book, it is pretty worn and frazzeled.
I have been through a fair amount of education since those days, couple of masters degrees and a Ph.D. and have to say that I take greater pride in Dr. Sumerlin telling me that he was going to take a chance on me at the end of my first semester and give me a "C" in theory...than many of the other educational "accomplishments" since. I still have the "Theory Progress Award" plaque he gave me in the spring of 1976, at the end of the second semester of freshman theory.
I am the lead pastor of a church in Lansing, Michigan these days. We have two services, one traditional and one contemporary. We have four worship teams for the contemporary service and they let me play keyboards with them twice a month. Whenever transposing questions come up or they can't figure out a chord from a CD (if they don't have the music) they always ask me to figure it out--thanks Dr. Sumerlin....30 years later, I 'm still using what you taught me and I'm using it in ministry.
blessings to all,
Bill Beachy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Lansing, , MI USA - Thursday, February 10, 2005 at 08:42:40 (CST)
I am very sad to hear that Dr. Sumerlin has passed. I found out over the weekend, and in my preparation to make sure I knew the melody of a hymn slated for worship that day, I found myself using solfeggio and trying to sound the harmonization. Wednesday evening I was teaching my choir one of my prayer responses and in my head I was thinking solfeggio and getting ready to explain a chord change analytically to some of my more astute choir members. You see, my melodies and harmonies are a bit like Dr. Sumerlin's, lyrical but disonant only enough to make you really appreciate the resolution. So much of my music makings would not be possible without the things he taught me. Both Macon and Bobbie touched my life in such a special way. I would not be the musician I am today without their special guidance. Bobbie and family, you are in my prayers. We will all miss this gentle genius. (IV-I)
In Christ Richard Burke, Abilene, TX
Richard Burke <email@example.com>
Abilene, TX USA - Thursday, February 10, 2005 at 19:38:30 (CST)
I took time out yesterday in my Band class to talk about Macon Sumerlin. I needed to express the debt I owe to an amazing genius from a very unlikely place, who had time during his worthy endeavors to make me one of them. Since I was double majoring in Music and Theatre, it would have been easy to pass me by for the "traditional" student, but Macon and his colleagues offered me the works! I, too, use his theory every day and am still learning in the field of music with the broad basis given me at the hand of greatness.
I remember Dr. Sumerlin enjoying my sense of humor, and even trying to help me in my year or two of sleep deprevation problems by calling me on the phone for an 8:00 Theory class!!! You can BET that hearing his voice at 7:00 would catapult me to the shower!! At that time, I had discovered so little of the field of music, yet he wasn't about to give up on me. Now, I'm teaching guitar, band, chorus, alternately with theatre and poetry, singing everwhere, and I owe so much to Macon Sumerlin! Deb
Deb South Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Heidelberg, Germany - Saturday, February 12, 2005 at 03:40:37 (CST)
I've enjoyed reading the comments of all those who were touched by this talented man. It strikes me that the greatest "memorial" anyone can give is to reflect in our lives the positive traits that he taught us. In that way, his legacy lives on.
Dr. Sumerlin had the mind of a brilliant scientist and the skill and patience to relate concepts to ordinary people. What a unique combination. Each of us received the information differently and applied it to the rest of our lives. I love hearing about the paths that God has directed his students to take.
Unlike many of my peers, I have made my living in the business world and have kept alive the music within me by leading worship and writing music. As I wind down my business career I am hoping that my "path" will lead me to focus more and more on writing down what I hear the Lord giving me.
I thought a lot about Dr. Sumerlin during the Fall of 2003. My mother and father's home church, St. Paul United Methodist in Amarillo, was preparing to celebrate their 50th anniversary as a church in March of 2004. My mother asked if I thought the Lord would lead me to write an anthem for the service where their former pastors would be returning to help them celebrate. (Mom and Dad were charter members and brought me to this church when I was 6 months old). I prayed about it and believe that the Lord gave me an anthem for this church at this time.
As I wrote the words and music, I knew that the Holy Spirit was the author. But as I began the orchestration, I couldn't believe how easily the training I had received (mostly from Dr. Sumerlin more than 28 years ago) came back to my memory. I purchased the latest version of the Sibelius music composition software and had more fun than a person is supposed to be allowed to have by law! The anthem "Hand In Hand" turned out to be a march, in the order of Onward Christian Soldiers, for 4 part choir, pipe organ, 2 trumpets, French horn, tympani, children's choir and bell choir. With help from the Amarillo symphony, it was a great celebration.
If any of you have access to Sibelius software I would be happy to email you the file so you could watch the music and hear the anthem. And if it is ever appropriate for your choir, feel free to use it. At the risk of being too long winded I will attach the words to the anthem. I think it is appropriate to the memory of Dr. Sumerlin and all those who have helped shape us into the adults we have become.
I tried to keep the message and tune simple and forceful. The men start out by stating the mission and the ladies and children bring the fullness of understanding. I had asked the Lord: "what makes a church stay together and persevere through many trials for more than 50 years?", and these are the words I received:
(men in unison)
Lord, you commanded that we walk hand in hand
That we help one another to take back the land
And be all you created so that others will see
That the light of the world can set captives free.
(men and women in unison)
Tell every son, every daughter, every mom, every dad
Take the word to the people and go throughout the land
Shout it from every rooftop let your voices ring
The lost can be found now that Jesus ... is King!
We re all part of a family, it s important to know
That each part of the body must constantly grow
So our hands and our feet and our eyes and our ears
Can work closely together and stand through the years
(Children s choir with bells)
We ve been given a mission, and it s one we can t fail
Other lives are at risk and we must prevail
If we count on the Spirit to gift us to sing
Then our land will be saved through Jesus the King.
(men in unison, women descant)
Lord, you commanded that we walk hand in hand
Come Holy Spirit, take our hand
That we help one another to take back the land
Give us compassion for our land
And be all you created so that others will see
Lord give us kindness, wisdom and strength
That the light of the world can set ... captives free.
As we praise Jesus set captives free
That the Light of the World
Through the Light of the World
Our land will be saved
Through Jesus the King!
Love In Christ, Bill Braudt
Bill Braudt <email@example.com>
Keller, TX USA - Friday, February 18, 2005 at 09:18:02 (CST)
Dear Friends of Macon Sumerlin,
Margaret and I attended Macon's memorial service in Sealy, TX today. It was a beautiful service in the church.
Bobbie Sumerlin and Mike Sumerlin and other family members were there.
The room was full of friends including some McM students of Macon's.
I hope you successfully receive the attachments I have enclosed.
I had a long talk with The Rev. Robert Wawee, Rector of the church, who told me that Macon had been in Sealy for about one year. He said that Macon was a real inspiration to all and was a good member of the church.
Macon died of complications of a type of cancer that invaded an organ and that caused problems with his lungs. He died peacefully. Rev. Wawee was with him when he died and said that Macon knew he was going to go and that he was ready to go.
My days with Macon go back to the "Dale Schoonover" days when Macon was still at HSU. Macon and I worked several "jobs" with organ and drums. I especially remember one wedding reception at the Abilene Country Club. It was a big wedding and a lot of people were there. I don't remember who got married but I do remember working with Macon.
Also I remember the first concert by the Abilene Symphony in 1950. Many times Schoonover, Macon and I would have coffee at a coffee shop. On many occasions Macon would take a napkin from the holder and write a complete band score in just a few minutes.
I have many fond memories.
Margaret and I represented all of you at the memorial service. We have lost a good friend and a truly remarkable person.
Please send me your comments.
Odis & Margaret Claxton
15317 Kingfield Drive
Huston, Texas 77084
Odis Claxton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Houston, TX USA - Saturday, February 19, 2005 at 22:18:53 (CST)
Macon and Bobbie took me under their wings as a
first-year teacher at Jefferson Junior High School in
Abilene back in 1979. The program was in a poor
state, but Bobbie was encouraging, firm, demanding
much out of her students and me! (Bobbie, do you
remember the D natural I played in the Haydn at the
Honolulu Bowl? I'll never forget how you looked at me! I
Both Macon and Bobbie were part of the Sightsinging
Mafia, and they truly were my solfege Godfather and
Godmother. At dinner, Macon would teach me
"sounding", contending that if people would embrace
this concept, the vertical dimension to solfege
(harmonic implications), that anyone could read. I
embraced the solfege training, and it changed my life.
(Sounds like a conversion experience of sorts, and I
guess it was.)
When I landed my first high school job in Fort Stockton
(at the height of the oil boom), it was Macon who called
me up and requested time for discussion about "the
real world." He proceeded to teach me about small
communities, what was appropriate, what was not, how
to keep the distance between teacher and student
"holy", and in general to avoid being killed by some
outraged father! He said, "Never, and I mean never
drive a young woman in your car alone. If you do, you
might be looking down the barrel of a 16 gauge
shotgun." He was giving me not only fatherly advice,
but advice which was as wise as it was about a
professional code of ethics.
I taught ear training at Shorter College in Rome,
Georgia for 13 years, and much of my success in the
ear training arena has been do to both Macon and
This morning, Bobbie sent me an email stating that
Macon had died. She said, "Macon loved you, John." I
loved him as well, and although not the best
correspondent throughout the past 28 years, I hope
they both know how much I love them.
God bless you Bobbie.
John Ratledge <JRatledge2@aol.com>
Tuscaloosa, AL USA - Sunday, February 20, 2005 at 12:14:34 (CST)
I will always be grateful that my wife Sandy encouraged and Bobbie welcomed me to drive from Austin to visit with Macon on Saturday morning, Feb. 5, the day before he died. For about 45 minutes, we had a splendid visit. Macon was lying in the backmost position of his beloved recliner -- his preferred couch of repose, a familiar sight to me. I had tiptoed past the reclining, dozing Macon on many of my overnight visits with the Sumerlins in years past. Referring to the new hospital bed that had awaited Macon on his then-recent return home from the hospital, he said he was glad for the time being to be out of that bed that they "fold you up in".
Oh, Macon was in and out of awareness some that last Saturday morning, but most of the time he was in as we laughed and remembered. Both Bobbie and his loving son John were faithfully at hand to give comfort and to share in the special, knowing communion that was going on. Bobbie-brewed coffee -- Macon, too, had a sip or two -- was the cup, and enduring friendship was and is the sustenance.
Not wanting to tire my friend out, I didn't tarry at the lovely Sumerlin home in Sealy for long. But I will long remember and always treasure the memory of that special time I spent with Macon on his last day among us.
I shuddered when Bobbie called me the following morning to say that Macon was gone. How close I had come to missing making that very special memory.
Sandy and I drove to Sealy for the lovely memorial service on Thursday, February 10. The sun shone; it was a beautiful day. Before the service, Bobbie had invited us to come by the house where the mood was sad yet somehow joyous. The great man was gone, but his life was fulfilled and he had left it peacefully. I so much appreciated the time I spent talking with Mike. Bobbie is really blessed to have the loving support of the two sons and the families around them.
And those of us who were Macon's students and friends are forever blessed to have known and loved and learned from the 'gentle genius' that he was.
ed nichols <email@example.com>
Austin, TX USA - Monday, February 21, 2005 at 14:00:40 (CST)
My heart has been so heavy these past weeks after hearing about Dr. Sumerlin's death. I was fortunate enough to learn solfege in elementary school which was continued in junior high, high school and college (all my schooling was in Abilene). Mrs. Sumerlin came to Cooper High School my senior year. We NEVER sang a piece with the words at the first reading---always on solfeggio until we had every note, chord and modulation perfectly in tune---then the words were added. It was so natural then to go on to McMurry and continue singing in solfege. To this day I use solfege with my CHURCH choirs. Each week as a part of warm-ups we sing on solfege. I also make sure that my voice students are always learning solfege as a part of their training.
In addition to all of the incredibly challenging music that Dr. Sumerlin composed for the Chanters, I was privileged to sing one of his compositions ("The Voice from the Tempest") in high school. It is taken from the book of Job in the Bible. What an incredible text and perfectly matching music. I pulled out that recording (remember LP's?) and listened to it this past weekend. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I again recounted how blest I was not only to have been able to learn at the feet of a true master and genius in Dr. Sumerlin, but also that I was blest in having had Mrs. Sumerlin as a master teacher too!
With love and respect, Steve Harter
Steve Harter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Colorado Spring, CO USA - Tuesday, February 22, 2005 at 14:00:16 (CST)
I am interested in supporting a scholarship fund at McMurry in Macon's name. I'm interested to find out if there is any movement in this direction. The person at McMurry that I talked to this week had no information for me.
Thanks, Bruce Cain
ps. Sorry to have missed the funeral. I really appreciate the website.
Reading through it brought back lots of fond memories. Thanks for
keeping it going.
Bruce Cain <email@example.com>
Thursday, August 8, 2005 at 16:48:16 (CST)
The following came in an e-mail to the webmaster --
I had a dream the other night that was mostly about Macon. He and I (and sometimes Bobbie) used to talk popular music -- well, the popular music of our era -- a good deal. We would discuss, hum, delve into certain songs and songwriters, maybe play and sing a few that especially pleased us. It was really fun, at least for me.
In my dream, Macon was as he was in earlier years -- mature, certainly, but yet still vigorous. He was wearing a light-colored suit, a blue shirt and tie which set off his handsome salt-and-pepper hair and those bright, smiling eyes. There was another woman in the dream, probably a student, who was having trouble getting the tune right to the lovely pop song Early Autumn. Macon of course knocked that out for her in short order, but not before I joined in the humming of it. I joked a bit with Macon about how he really seemed to prefer some oddball, obscure pop tunes -- and the words that went with them -- from the 1920's. And I think I woke up humming Early Autumn.
I treasure a volume that Macon gave me on one of my last overnight visits with the Sumerlins in their Abilene home. (We had a lot of those, and how those memories linger.) Anyway, the book is Alec Wilder's book, Popular Music. I unashamedly had once asked Macon, only half jokingly, to please will the book to me after we had looked up something or other in it. We did that more than once. It was on my next visit with Macon and Bobbie that he graciously handed the Wilder book to me, saying he really wanted me to have it while he could give it to me himself. I'm so glad he did, so glad to have it, so gratified that Bobbie also wanted me to have it.
I can only hope that I have some more such dreams, hum once more some poignant tunes with Macon.
Ed Nichols - October 8, 2005