She recalled when at age 3, when her family lived at her grandmother’s house in Old Fort, they didn’t have a piano, but there was an enamel kitchen table that was Ann’s piano. Little Ann would prop a hymn book in front of her and would “play” the kitchen table and sing.
“Mother had a pretty good idea that I wanted a piano — real bad,” Ann said. And she was the first person in her family to take music lessons.
Ann Almond was born in the P&S Hospital in Cleveland in 1940 to Harold and Ruthanna Stratton Almond, and lived in Cleveland until 1962, except during World War II when her parents moved to Old Fort to live with her maternal grandmother, Joyce Reed Stratton. But the family returned to Cleveland in 1946, moving into a home on North Ocoee Street, then North Lee Highway.
She went to Arnold School in the first and second grades. One of her teachers was Mrs. Walter Clift, who featured the Arnold second-graders in a “Tom Thumb” wedding. The students dressed as grown-up members of the wedding party complete with minister and music.
When a new elementary school was build, Ann left Arnold and began at North Cleveland so she could walk to her third-grade class. She came back to Arnold four years later.
During this time, her life became more and more centered on music, she said. The earlier “playing” on the kitchen table gave way to a gutted upright player piano and then to a Steinway.
Ann remembered that Bradley County was a fertile ground for budding musicians, boasting many fine music practitioners and teachers, reaching back into the 19th century. Many of them, she said, were brought to the area by institutions of higher learning, such as the various academies, Centenary College, Bob Jones College and now, Lee University.
Ann’s first piano teacher was the pianist at North Cleveland Church of God, Mrs. Paul Carroll, and “I credit her with starting me out so that I was never afraid to play any kind of music, whether it was written down or not.”
She went on to study with Ruth Aiken, who, for decades, she said, was a central figure in the musical life of the community and of Broad Street United Methodist Church. “She was a dedicated teacher, holding monthly MacDowell Junior Music Club meetings in her home, lending books and occasionally allowing us to look at scrapbooks from her “Grand Tour” as a young woman.”
During the time she attended the public schools, there was no standard or formal instruction in music. At times, Ann said, the home room teacher — in the absence of a music teacher — would “make do” or do the best she could. Often the music was a class in the school auditorium, singing songs from the “Golden Book,” and students shouted requests for the pianist — which was usually Pope — to play the latest popular songs, while everyone who knew the words sang. Among the top 10 in the 50s were “Ebbtide” and “Music, Music, Music.”
She was only 12 when Frances Harle Pegues hired her as pianist at her ballet school. She also performed at various civic clubs in the years that followed, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, along with Jeannie Sawyer, and even once did a noon-time live-remote from Lon’s Restaurant on WBAC.
In 1954 Ann enrolled at Bradley High School — the only other one in the county was Charleston High School. She accompanied the choir for four years —”the first two rehearsing in an old, creaky house.” She said there were so many opportunities to play.
Ann’s music education was expanded with her musical experiences at First Baptist Church where “I was given every opportunity and encouragement to play, learning to sigh-read, transpose and play ‘by ear’ when necessary,” she said.
After graduating from Bradley Central High, Ann enrolled in Florida State University as a music major. It was there she met and married her husband, David, and moved to Bowling Green, Ohio, where they lived for more than 30 years. They have three sons: David Jr., a banker and jazz musician, Peter, a geologist and also a jazz musician, and Michael, a professional jazz bassist in New York City.
In Bowling Green, An n says they have lived a life of music, teaching at the State University and performing in the area. Her husband was a pianist and a professor of music.
She even performed on the Cleveland Community Concert Association series as a member of the Kantorski-Pope Piano Duo. And, she said, “It was wonderful to come home.”
After he retired, they felt that since they had been in Bowling Green all that time, they should consider a move. The decision was made to come back to this area and they found property in Chattanooga that would fit what they wanted. So they built a house “for the pianos.”
It was the “best of all possible worlds.”
The move gave Ann the opportunity to continue the research of the history of music in Cleveland and Bradley County. This led to her book, “The Fallbergs and Their Friends: A Chronicle of Centenary College Conservatory in Cleveland, Tennessee (1910-1917),” which was published by the Bradley County Historical Society.
Music enriches your life, Ann said. She explained that it is something to share with people and it’s important socially — an outreach to other people and wonderful as a discipline and gives focus and even coordination.
For people who have a young family, Ann said, “I would definitely say have music going on in the home to listen to and something interactive that the child can do. The first thing I had — other than the kitchen table — was the xylophone,” she added.
“Make music a part of their lives. A family that has music has a lot going for it.”