Teachers I Respect and Admire–William Appling

William Appling taught choral music at Glenville High School in Cleveland (OH) in the 1950s and 1960s. I met him when I arrived as a novice teacher in 1956. While nearly all students were Black coming from working class and middle-class families in the Glenville neighborhood, only half of the faculty were Black when I began teaching history. A few years older than me, Appling had been at the school directing the choir and building a reputation as a demanding teacher who loved music, performance, and his students.

William Appling teaching choral music in 1965

Decades later, one former student who became a music teacher, Dr. Marsha Kindall-Smith, remembered him in this way:

Appling also composed music, conducted ensembles and orchestras, and performed on piano and other instruments. He became an expert on the music of Scott Joplin.After years of teaching at Glenville and Western Reserve Academy, he moved to Vassar College and later New York City where he continue to compose music and perform. He died in 2008.

While I knew Appling as a colleague, I was not close to him. I knew him best through those students of his who also were students in my U.S. history classes. As in most schools, you learn the strengths and weaknesses of fellow faculty members from their students. What I learned was that Appling worked hard at his craft and was passionate about music. He demanded a great deal of attention and work from his students. He received both and for that I had great respect and admiration for William Appling.


1 Comment

Filed under dilemmas of teaching, how teachers teach, leadership

One response to “Teachers I Respect and Admire–William Appling

  1. Ann Staley

    Music has a way of “bringing us together” and your portrait of a colleague underlines how successful and demanding he was. I wish I’d been in his choir. I sang in my high school choir in Harrisburg PA and we had a director who said for years and now has a music building named after her. Let us celebrate spring with the music we hear and make AND the teachers who believed in us and taught us how!

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