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Chorus instructor retires

By By James Crawford
News Editor
The schools have been alive with the sound of music for the past 12 years here in Atmore under the guide of Evelyn Bilbo, Choral instructor at the Escambia County High School and Middle School. For more than a decade, Bilbo has taught children in Atmore the sound of music and they in turn have filled her and many Atmore residents with precious memories to last a lifetime.
Today marks the final appearance of the ECMS Chorus Program under the tutelage of Bilbo, who has announced that she will retire at the end of this school year to pursue other interests.
"I said I would do 10 years and I've done 12, so it's time. I have a new grandbaby that I will hopefully see more of and I'm looking forward to spending time with the rest of my family," said Bilbo who has a daughter in Colorado, a son in Northern Virginia, and a daughter and grandson in Tennessee.
Originally from Vicksburg, Miss., Bilbo first arrived in Atmore about 23 years ago after having taught music in public school systems in Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, and Mississippi.
During that time her husband Dennis was in the Navy and they moved often. He eventually got a job with Alabama Power and they settled here in Atmore.
She taught private piano lessons for the first 13 years she was in town and had students from many area schools such as EA, Atmore Christian School.
"I decided to come back to the public school system because the lady who was teaching at the time left after 15 years.
We had a couple of teachers that were here only a couple of years and my daughters became involved with the program and I thought I might could add some stability to it," said Bilbo. "I saw a need."
During Bilbo's tenure at the high school her assemble has receive superior rankings in both state and district competition a number of times. "I have always had students selected to the Alabama State Chorus group," said Bilbo, who spoke with reverent pride for the accomplishments of her kids.
"Absolutely the biggest thing is the tremendously talented students I've taught. We may be a small community, but there is a tremendous amount of vocal talent here – a lot of it untapped.
When asked to sum up her career as the chorus instructor in Escambia County Bilbo said it was the students who kept her going and the love of music. "The biggest thing is I wanted my students to learn quality music and to hear what good choral music sounds like. For the most part, my students have bought into that," said Bilbo.
At least one former student has continued her music training. Phran Fountain now teaches music at Rachel Patterson. "One of the reasons my choral groups are so well founded is due to Phran who was once a piano student of mine. She gives my kids a good background in music," said Bilbo.
The high school group has 16 members in two classes compared to the 75 students at the Escambia County Middle School, where she teaches three classes.
"I know the high school Choral Program will continue but I don't know with who. We're not sure about the middle school program at this time," said Bilbo.
When speaking of her own plans after she lays down the wand Bilbo says she's mostly undecided but family was her top priority. "I don't have any definite plans right now. My husband is still working.
"We don't plan to move or anything. His mother is in the Meadows and my dad is in Vicksburg so nothing has been decided about the future. Right now I haven't made any plans and don't desire to make any plans. I've had people approach me about teaching privately and I'm not interested at this time," said Bilbo.
Today, Bilbo will conduct her last public Spring Concert as the leader of the choral program. Her advanced course has already thrown her a party before they began preparing for their choral season and her program will end on an upbeat with performances beginning at 3 p.m. at the Escambia County Middle School gym.
The high school will perform several programs for students throughout the day on Monday, wrapping up her career as instructor there, although Bilbo hopes to schedule one last trip to the Meadows before the end of the school year.