It is ‘payback time’ for what Shenandoah has done for me.
During my era, 1966-1969, I had great teachers in both the conservatory and the two-year college,” states Robert “Bobby” Spiers, Jr. ’69, who graduated from Shenandoah University as the class valedictorian with a Bachelor of Music Education degree, majoring in french horn and minoring in organ. Spiers attended Shenandoah following his tour with the United States Army Band at Fort Monroe, Va.
He has a number of interesting stories to tell from his college days. “While studying for Mr. Clem’s U.S. History exam, a group of us took a break to see if we could witness the funeral and burial of U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. We were busted when a parent of one student spotted us looking through a wire fence on CBS national news!”
He also remembers the buzz at school when Jacqueline Kennedy’s niece was getting married at the Episcopal Church in Upperville, Va. Carl Mottley, a Shenandoah music faculty member, was the organist and choir director at the church. Organ students offered to be page turners or wash Mottley’s car in order to attend the festivities. “Mr. Mottley became upset because the secret service camped out at his residence to watch the people at the wedding,” said Spiers.
Spiers married Elizabeth “Betty Ann” Rex Spiers, the year after he graduated from Shenandoah. As newlyweds they spent their time studying, simultaneously working towards master’s degrees at West Virginia University.
Spiers and his wife landed their first music teaching jobs together in Roanoke County, where Spiers grew up. He was an instrumental band teacher at Northside Junior High/Middle School in Roanoke County from 1970-1980 and then at Harry F. Byrd Middle School in Henrico County from 1980-1986. From 1986-2000, Spiers was an instrumental strings teacher (elementary through high school) in Hanover County. He retired after serving the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Public School System for more than 30 years.
Spiers says his most rewarding experiences included launching a whole new program for Hanover County and seeing it flourish through high school. His years of teaching have left him with many student success stories. His Northside Middle School band performed with Miss Fairfax (later Miss Virginia), Paige Brown, at a state foreign language festival. Rebecca Beavers, his “pride and joy” from Northside, is currently the music librarian for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Spiers says his former classmate at both Shenandoah and WVU, Tommy Joe Anderson ’69, records for broadcast the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at the Woodruff Arts Center, as well as recitals and chamber music at Spivey Hall, frequently featured on Public Radio’s “Performance Today.” Spiers also notes the fact that many of his former students have followed his career path and are now successful music teachers.
Now that I have fully retired at age 72, I feel I can do more to pay back to Shenandoah what she gave to me. My number one passion is the music scholarship that I started in the memory of Jerald Raymond White, Sr., who was my former teacher and mentor. I followed in his footsteps.”
White’s artifacts are now displayed on campus in the Dayton Gallery at the Brandt Student Center. Spiers likes knowing his scholarship is actively aiding Shenandoah students. He himself relied on the G.I. Bill and a resident advisor stipend to attend school. Spiers was the first R.A. at Funkhouser.
Spiers and his wife, who celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary on June 14, reside in Richmond, Va. They have two children, Jarratt, age 40 and Jonathan, age 35. Jarratt is a supervisor with Comcast Cable Company in Richmond, and Jonathan is a newspaper reporter for an online daily paper. He covers news around the Wilmington, N.C. area. The Spiers have one grandchild, 12-year-old Tyler.
Spiers enjoys flower gardening and lawn care, Monday Morning Men’s Prayer Breakfast at Reveille United Methodist Church, playing piano for the Wesleyan Sunday School Class and ushering for one of the church services. In June, Spiers was one of 50 people to travel to London with Fred Child, NPR host of “Performance Today/Piano Puzzler.” He was one of three from Virginia on a first-ever tour called “A London Rhapsody.” Spiers states, “The event was a life-changing experience for me. Everything I was taught at Shenandoah came to fruition. The events and musical venues I will remember for a lifetime.” He became a close friend of Child’s on the tour. “It was great to have been chosen for this first-ever tour hosted by Fred. The memories at my age will be in my ‘memory bank’ forever!”