Born in Wiggins, Mississippi, Mary (Hickman) Rogers grew up in Monroe, Louisiana where her father was a History professor at NLU. Her mother was a vocal performance graduate from Indiana University who had her own Chicago radio show for a time. They met at a most unlikely venue, Perkinston (MS) Junior College, where they were both teachers. In Monroe Mary started playing violin in the public school program under the tutelage of Buddy Huthmaker and Roger DiGiulian. She continued taking orchestra through high school and studied privately with Coleen DiGiulian. While attending college at NLU, Mary was concertmistress of the university’s orchestra for four years while also playing in the Monroe Symphony where she met Ryan. After she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, they were married. They later moved to Jackson and became members of the Jackson Symphony under Lewis Dalvit. At the same time Mary began teaching in the Symphony’s String Program in Jackson and Clinton schools until 1979. “I took a leave from teaching with the births of my son, Ben, and four years later my twin daughters, Laura and Maureen. In 1989 I returned to teaching as a ‘substitute’ and in 1993 returned to my permanent teaching position at Clinton’s Eastside Elementary.” Mary continued playing in the Symphony through the “family years” although Ryan took the 1990’s off for “daddy duty” – and an after-work coaching career.
“All 4th and 5th grade students in Clinton attend Eastside Elementary. In the Spring 4th graders are recruited for my string program. As a result I have somewhere between 80 and 125 beginning string students on violin, viola, and cello in the Fall.” Mary also continues string instruction at Lovett (6th grade) and CJHS (7th & 8th grade), the remaining grades offered by CPS. “I meet the beginners once a week for 50 minutes. Clinton is a wonderful school district in which to teach strings, not only because of the great enthusiasm of the students, but also because of the high level of interest of their parents. Many of my beginning string students continue their musical experience either in strings, choir, or band. For these it’s my hope that their first strings class has established a foundation on which other teachers can build effectively. For those who do not continue I hope their first musical experience is one which they will remember fondly and one which will help recruit the next generation of musicians.”
Mary adds, “my mother played an indispensable part for the Monroe Symphony. Over 35 years she held every executive position of the Monroe Symphony League. Most notably, she was known as ‘Sarge’ over the Symphony League Book Room where she supervised its highly-successful fund-raising sales 3 times each year.”