The Orfords

This is an odd place to start a little tribute to the couple that fostered music in Mahopac schools for decades, but this is what came up:

It hit me how one day the powers that be decided to break our wonderful little gym-auditorium in two by building a wall down the middle. 

This friendly wooden room had held years of concerts and plays, so it was a shock to see it chopped up.

I heard at the time that Mrs. Orford was livid: she stated right away that the great tradition of annual Gilbert and Sullivan shows would never happen again. I could not believe that this could happen, what with the reverence I thought everyone had for the Orfords.

She taught singing and chorus and he taught band… he taught ALL the instruments.

When I came my time to try out for band I wanted drums but my parents steered me into flute. Not realizing that flute (Jethro Tull) would someday be cool, I was very unmotivated and soon flunked the critical music exam.

All my life my inability to read music has haunted me, but it wasn’t Mr. Orford’s fault: he told us to study up.

Mrs. Orford, I know, despaired at my inability to carry a tune and never made any attempt to get me out for chorus.

She did get my buddy and I to play guitar and piano at a class concert, which I was okay with; he was not.

As seniors, already being a leftist, I was not happy that she had us sing The Ballad of the Green Berets. Vietnam was already starting to heat up as a social issue and some of our school mates died there.

Later I heard that when Mrs. Orford was succumbing to cancer, many of her former students gathered outside her house to sing for her.

What a rare and special couple: dedicating their entire lives to teaching music to kids, many of whom did not appreciate their efforts.

I would imagine that modern hiring policies would not allow such a thing to happen again: a husband-wife music team.

But Florence and William Orford did exist and they worked tirelessly to drag music out of us and into us, and they made it work.

Another glimpse: walking down the hall with Richie Walasin and coming by Mrs.  Orford and Richie says, “Mrs. Orford, I made the high notes in Maria from West Side Story.” He was proud and she was delighted for him.

There must be thousands of other, and better, stories about the Orfords and you are invited to add to them to the comments below.

(Comment moderation is necessary to avoid mountains of SPAM.)

Photo from Judy Brady Witherspoon, whose family were good friends with the Orfords.

4 Responses

  1. I have so many memories of those two, I don’t know where to begin. I used to sneak out of the soprano section of the chorus, where Mrs Orford had placed me, and go into the alto section, because to me, harmony sounded like melody. She always caught me and sent me back. In high school, I had a permanent pass to go to the band room at any time; I can’t remember why. Mr. Hanson, the shop teacher told me I needed a cement pass because I was always wandering the halls. In 7th grade, Mr. Orford decided I was to teach the beginning flute students; I taught flute for the rest of my life. One day I was at my locker to get a medication, a tranquilizer, that a doctor had prescribed for me (again, I can not remember why) and Mrs. Orford came up to me and asked me if I wanted to end up in “The Valley of the Dolls”. I loved them both. But, I was always mad at Mr. Orford for insisting that, when I was in the 7th grade, that I participate in the high school marching band; I Hated it.

    1. I am really not finished yet, but this brought such a flood of emotion out of me I had to stop…for now.

      1. Just for information: I was Irene Politis; I was from the class of 1971, but graduated a year early in 1970 (I had the 18 credits required, so went to the counselors and they let me graduate).

  2. When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I wanted to try out for the chorus. It had to be done in front of all my classmates, and of course, Mrs. Orford, the music teacher. After trying out in front of ALL my classmates, Mrs. Orford informed me that I could not be in the chorus, that I was tone deaf and could not carry a tune. As a child, that was extremely hurtful, especially being a child who loved music–and still does to this day!

    Even though I was told way back then that I could not sing, I have sung for most of my life–and have loved every minute of it! Mr. Ordord allowed me to play the triangle in the orchestra!

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