Sarah Catharine "Sally" Tarr, a retired Baltimore County teacher who accompanied performers in numerous community theater musicals and church choirs, died Dec. 5 at Carroll County General Hospital. She was 64.
Her sister, Nancy Tarr Hart, said she died of heart failure as she was about to attend a concert at McDaniel College. She was a Parkville resident.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Towson, she was the daughter of Joseph A. Tarr, an accountant, and Catharine Cox Tarr, a head nurse at Franklin Square Medical Center.
She was a 1968 graduate of Towson High School and earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics at McDaniel College and a second bachelor's degree at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J.
"Her parents were both musical," said her sister, who lives in Reisterstown. "My mother played the violin and sang, and my father was a tenor in church choirs and performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra chorus."
Miss Tarr began playing and performing in a dramatics program held at Dulaney High School in the summer months. She also played the organ at Loch Raven United Methodist Church, where her father directed a choir.
"She was gifted in many ways," said George F. Johnson, former Towson High School vocal music director, who lives in Rehoboth Beach, Del. "She was an excellent pianist and had the ability to sight-read music. As a student, she accompanied performers at Towson, and she came back to the school after she graduated. She could come in at the last minute and fill in. She helped me out of a pickle many times. She was energetic and enthusiastic and came from a great musical family."
She taught in private schools and joined the Baltimore County public schools system. She taught math and music and was on the faculty of Parkville High School for many years. She retired this year from Dundalk Elementary School. She also taught at Dundalk Middle School.
In addition to teaching, she was a church musician. She played the organ and directed choirs at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Hanover, Pa., Faith Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson, Towson United Methodist Church and Loch Raven United Methodist Church. She also accompanied church choirs on overseas and U.S. tours.
She was also music director and accompanist for musical theater productions at the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church's Suburban Players, Dundalk Community Theatre, Cockpit in Court and the old Towsontowne and Fells Point dinner theaters.
She accompanied or led orchestras in the musicals "South Pacific," "Pajama Game" and "Fiddler on the Roof," among others.
"If you needed a good pianist, you called Sally first," said F. Scott Black, former dean of the School of Liberal Arts at the Community College of Baltimore County, who also directed productions where she played. "She loved Broadway shows and she loved to play. She was good working with people, too. She was no-nonsense but was always compassionate."
Miss Tarr was well known among local high school music teachers and in community theater circles. Family members said she was often contracted to play piano for high school shows.
"You could count on Sally to keep up the pace and never allow a number to drag," said her sister, who is also a well-known community theater performer.
Miss Tarr was also a member of the Handbell Guild of America and led handbell choirs in addition to choirs.
She was awarded numerous blue ribbons for her cross-stitch, quilt and knitting work at the Maryland State Fair. She gave the quilts, samplers and sweaters to family and friends.
"While she never missed a cue, she did her knitting during her shows," her sister said. "When a song ended, she picked up her knitting needles."
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Loch Raven United Methodist Church, 6622 Loch Raven Blvd.
In addition to her sister, survivors include a brother, James L. Tarr of Sykesville; two other sisters, Janet T. Lester of Roanoke, Va., and Joyce T. O'Dwyer of Lutherville; and nieces and nephews.