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Former classmates come full circle

Paula Sue Duebelt and Sue Bass Wilson are neighbors and lifelong friends whose passion for music dates back to high school.

Now, 45 years later, the two class of 1965 graduates are working collaboratively to keep the choral program at AHS active for about 90 students. Duebelt is the part-time teacher, and Wilson serves as volunteer and chorus substitute teacher. She uses her lunch break to help with the program.

The two have taken the reigns of the choral program after months of uncertainty of what would happen to the program after the board of education cut the position at the end of last school year.

A community outcry influenced the board to create a part-time choral position.

Duebelt is no stranger to the AHS program, having been at the helm of the program for 30 years, and Wilson, a realtor by trade, taught music for five years in Alabama and Florida and is a fixture in the Andalusia community.

“We grew up in (the choral program),” Duebelt said. “We are products of this program. We have music degrees because of it. It’s very meaningful to be here together. It’s amazing to me how things come full circle.”

“It’s something that never gets out of your system,” Wilson said. “Music is No.1.”

The two have worked together on and off for the past four decades, organizing casts for musicals such as “South Pacific,” “Carousel,” “Annie” and “Oliver” at LBW Community College.

They were also members of the “Singing Sisters,” a folk group that sang at “hootenannies” all over South Alabama, Wilson said.

The two agree the program has been influential in the lives of AHS students and hope to continue the tradition.

“We think Earl Johnson wouldn’t be the mayor if he hadn’t starred in ‘Bye, Bye Birdie’ his senior year,” Wilson said. “We feel certain that many of our classmates would not have seen the success if not for this class.”

The pair are excited to be back in the classroom and have much planned for the upcoming year.

“Right now, the students are learning the basic fundamental of how to read the music,” Wilson said.

“If you teach them to read music they can sing any song,” DueBelt said. “We’re incorporating history, math, cultures, patriotism and school spirit in the class.”

Wilson said the choral classes have already begun singing “Yea Alabama,” “War Eagle,” the school alma mater and of course, the state song “Alabama.”

The two agree their goal is to keep the choral program in front of the community, while instilling in the students something they can teach their own children.

“These students will go on to do wonderful things,” Wilson said. “Some will use it to teach their children. We hope it plays a role in helping them have a full and meaningful life.”

Paula Sue Duebelt and Sue Bass Wilson are teaching the same class that influenced their musical beginnings.