Clarence E. Beard, vocal music teacher

Clarence Edward Beard, a retired Baltimore County public schools vocal music teacher, died of kidney failure Sept. 28 at his Pikesville home. He was 97.

Born in Westminster, he was raised on his parents' dairy farm. He was a 1932 graduate of Westminster High School, where he played soccer. During the Depression of the 1930s, his father traded land, now used as a golf course, to the old Western Maryland College for tuition for his children, family members said. Mr. Beard earned a bachelor's degree in music and mathematics at the school, now called McDaniel College.

Mr. Beard began teaching in 1940 in Prince George's County public schools but worked for only part of a year. He was called to military service, but because he was a member of the pacifist Church of the Brethren, he spent more than four years in Civilian Public Service as a conscientious objector. He was assigned to Mansfield State Training School outside Hartford, Conn., and taught music. In Pennsylvania and California, he was assigned to working in the forests and worked under military supervision.

"When released, he got no salary or GI Bill benefits," said his daughter, Christine A. Beard of Pikesville.

After the war, he settled in Pikesville. He joined the faculty of Milford Mill Junior-Senior High School in 1949 and retired there in 1977 after it had become a high school. He taught music, directed choirs and staged musical comedies and operettas.

"Witty and kind, he taught from his own deep, inner knowing of the power of music," said Christine Beard.

He also taught students at his home in voice and piano and founded a Pikesville community chorus, the Choir Art Singers. He had another group, the Madrigal Singers, who performed at Baltimore County social events.

"He was able to evoke his students' best sounds, sometimes to their surprise," said another daughter, Holly Foster of Cockeysville.

She said her father was a "an understanding listener" and gave a "safe harbor for his students who needed it."

Family members said he directed many theater works, including "Brigadoon," "Oklahoma!," "Kiss Me Kate," "The New Moon" and "The Pirates of Penzance."

"As a musical director he had high standards," said a former student, Clay Welch, a singer and choir director who lives in Pikesville. "When I was worried about going on to college, he encouraged me and said, 'Listen, you are going to college.' He was very influential in my life."

Mr. Beard served as choir director at Lochearn Presbyterian Church in the 1960s. In 1974 he organized a choir for the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, where he worshiped. He directed the ensemble for 15 years.

In the 1970s, Mr. Beard became a member of the International Club of Maryland. He and his wife housed a 19-year-old Cambodian refugee for about three years.

"My father had a wonderful, wry sense of humor which allowed words to roll off his tongue," his daughter Christine said. "He loved Scrabble, crossword puzzles and doing the Word Jumbles."

Mr. Beard was a skilled woodworker and enjoyed building extra bedrooms, a playroom and a new kitchen for the family home.

He and his wife were subscribers to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Choral Arts Society. After retirement, they made Atlantic-to-Pacific trips, with stops in national parks, in their recreational vehicle.

He was a member of the Maryland Music Educators Association and the Maryland Retired School Personnel Association, among other professional groups.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 14 at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, Charles and Franklin streets, where he was a member.

In addition to his daughters, survivors include two sons, Ernest Ross Beard of San Francisco and Daryl Beard of Pikesville; a sister, Alice Kordisch of Springfield, Mo.; three grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. His wife of 65 years, the former LaVaughn C. Hansen, died in 2006.

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