Activities Hall of Fame
Sandy Cordes is a 1964 graduate of Smith-Cotton High School. After graduation she attended Central Missouri State University where she received her Bachelor's Degree in Music Education. She later returned to CMSU and received a Master's Degree in Music Education. Upon completion of her undergraduate work, for 20 years Sandy taught vocal and instrumental music in Leeton, Chilhowee, Otterville, and Cole Camp schools.
In 1989 she returned to Sedalia where she became the director of Vocal Music for Smith-Cotton High School. During her tenure at Smith-Cotton, the vocal music program blossomed into one of the finest in the state. The success of the program led to Sandy becoming a leader among her peers through the Missouri Choral Directors Association and the Missouri Music Educators Association. Through the Missouri Choral Directors Association she has held offices including a term as State President for four years. As a member of the Missouri Music Educators Association, she has served as West Central President, Choral Vice President, and Elementary Vice President.
After retiring from Smith-Cotton in 2003, she has continued to serve the music community as an adjudicator, a trainer for adjudicators, and vocal coach. She is the founder and director of The Vocal Connection, a private voice studio in Sedalia. Many of our current students seek her expertise so her influence is still felt on our program today.
Bob Wasson was born and raised in Pettis County. He attended a one room school house in the Bothwell community before attending and graduating from Northwest High School in 1949. The importance of education was instilled in him at an early age by his mother and it was a value that he carried with him his entire life.
After serving his country in Korea, Bob returned to the U.S. and with the help of the G.I. Bill attended San Diego Junior College and earned his Business Administration Degree from San Diego State University. Never forgetting his Pettis County roots, Bob returned to Sedalia to start his career and raise his family.
As mayor of Sedalia from 2002 until his death in 2009, Bob was a true supporter of education in the Sedalia community. His dedication to the Smith-Cotton JROTC program was essential to its early success and he remained an important part of the program for the rest of his life. He was also actively involved with other youth groups such as the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and the Sedalia Student Leadership Council.
During his tenure as mayor he served as President of the Missouri Municipal League and President of the Whiteman Leadership Council. He has received the Spirit Award from the United Way, was recognized for his service to our community by the Sedalia Student Leadership Council, and was honored by the Forty and Eight for his work on behalf of local veterans.
Bob Wasson loved Sedalia. He also understood the importance of education's role in its future.
Sue Heckart's benevolence is seemingly boundless, especially when it comes to supporting the students of Sedalia School District 200.
A member of Smith-Cotton's Class of 1957, Heckart was born with music in her veins, performing in a trio with her parents, Stella and Del. Her interest in S-C and arts education has continued throughout her life, as evidenced by the facility we are gathered in tonight, the Heckart Performing Arts Center, donated by Sue and named in honor of her beloved parents.
For more than 40 years, Heckart and her Heckart Family Foundation have fulfilled wish lists for not only instrumental and vocal music programs, but also other Sedalia 200 departments, including scholarships and financial support for trips or events. Sedalia's arts students have no greater advocate than Sue Heckart.
Beyond this facility, she has provided most of the funding for new seating in the Smith-Cotton Junior High auditorium, has provided student scholarships and is the most generous contributor to the Smith-Cotton Stadium at Jennie Jaynes Complex project under way behind the high school. In addition, she provided the Heckart Allied Sciences Building and endowed scholarships at State Fair Community College, ample support for the Sedalia Symphony Orchestra and her business, Heckart Funeral Home, donates thousands of dollars each year as part of its Christmas Wreath Lighting Ceremony. Her latest project is helping build a new animal shelter for our community.
In her nomination letter, former Sedalia 200 Superintendent Dr. Harriet Wolfe wrote: "Sue Heckart is the perfect example of an alumnus who believes strongly in giving back to the community in which she lives and does business. … Her generosity is unequaled by most and her vision for what can be brought to the youth and the adults of this community is far-reaching."
Geraldine Teufel Schrader
Geraldine Schrader was a pioneer for the arts not only in the Sedalia school district, but for the entire community. A member of Smith-Cotton's Class of 1932, Schrader launched many programs and events that continue today, including New Score Singers, the community performance of Handel's "Messiah" and S-C's annual musicals.
Schrader earned a bachelor's degree in music from Central Methodist College and a master's degree in music education from Northwestern University. After teaching one year at New Franklin, she returned to Sedalia in Fall 1937 to take a teaching job. She became Director of Music for the district, leading the band, orchestra and vocal music departments. During her tenure she created the Madrigal Singers, the forerunners to the New Score Singers, and started an annual all-district orchestra performance which included students in grades 4 through 12.
Schrader's influence extended to State Fair Community College, as well, where she developed the music program and became chairwoman of the Fine Arts Department before her retirement in 1981. She also was the first woman to serve on SFCC's Board of Trustees and was an original member of the SFCC Foundation. In addition, she served as choir director for many years at Wesley United Methodist Church.
Schrader died in 2004 at age 89. In her book "Legendary Locals of Sedalia," historian Rebecca Carr Imhauser noted that Schrader's obituary stated: "Her influence as a music educator was seen in the number of students who became professional musicians and teachers."
Robert L. Cummings
Smith-Cotton students learned a lot under the guidance of music teacher Bob Cummings, chiefly that, "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."
Mr. Cummings taught music in the Sedalia school district for almost 30 years, 16 at Smith-Cotton High School. He taught concert, marching and jazz band, as well as orchestra and vocal music. Nancy Preuitt Edwards, one of his former students who went on to become a music educator herself, said: "Any class under the instruction of Mr. Cummings was taught well. He was an optimist. He was an encourager. He knew how to motivate us."
A 1939 graduate of Clinton High School, Mr. Cummings earned a bachelor's degree in music education in 1950 from Central Missouri State College and a master's degree in music in 1954 from Northwestern University. He also was an Air Force veteran of World War II, serving four years with the 551st Air Force Band. Mr. Cummings was an officer for Local Musicians Union No. 22 and performed with the Sedalia and Marshall symphonies and the Liberty Park Concert Band. One of his favorite non-musical accomplishments was that he once scored a hole-in-one at Sedalia Country Club.
While teaching at the elementary level, Mr. Cummings stressed education over performance to better prepare students for junior high and high school instrumental instruction. He truly enjoyed working with fourth graders as they started out on their instruments, and after retiring from the district he continued to teach private music lessons as well as doing instrument repairs. He also had his own dance band that performed across the area.
When Mr. Cummings became Smith-Cotton's director of music, he succeeded another S-C Activities Hall of Fame member, Geraldine Schrader. During his tenure, S-C music students and groups won numerous awards and honors, and he inspired many to become professional musicians or music educators. His children, Trish and David, wrote: "Our father was truly a musical person, not just a person who played music. He found early on that in addition to his great talent as a musician, he also had the ability to connect with young people and a gift for teaching."
David Emmitt Turner
Big-name performers and big-time musicals – David Emmitt Turner has a lifetime of connections to both.
A member of Smith-Cotton High School’s Class of 1966, Turner went on to study at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. During that time, he performed in backup bands for Ike and Tina Turner, Bobby Vinton, Trini Lopez, Jimmy Durante and others. He also was in the orchestra for Broadway touring companies for performances in classic musicals including “West Side Story,” “South Pacific,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The King and I” and more.
During his Smith-Cotton days, Turner played in the band and orchestra, earning letters all four years. His freshman year was under the direction of fellow Hall of Fame member Bob Cummings, and the rest of his S-C career he was instructed by Jerry Schroeder. In Turner’s senior year, he was named outstanding instrumental musician. He performed in the Spring Variety Show every year of high school, participated in intramural sports and was a member of the Letterman’s Club.
Turner’s involvement with music included performing with the Air Force Band, accompanying S-C show choirs’ performances for 20 years and owning Shaw’s Music in downtown Sedalia. He also played for the Liberty Center’s musical productions and was president of the Sedalia Symphony Band for several years. He served as a Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education member for nine years (1996-2005), and was the board president from 1999-2005.
Turner is a third-generation graduate of Smith-Cotton. His wife, Marcia, also is an S-C alum, as are their two children, Molly and David. Nominator Mike Albin said of Turner: “I have worked with Dave for many years with the show choirs; he always is in great humor with a smile on this face. I believe he has earned the right to be honored with the Hall of Fame.”
Dr. Maurice (Gene) Kelly II
It is hard to imagine a way to fit anything more into a musical and military life than Dr. Maurice (Gene) Kelley II has accomplished in his days – and he just keeps going.
A 1988 graduate of Smith-Cotton High School, Dr. Kelley is a free-lance bassist and clinician. He is the former Director of Orchestras at Angelo State University and founder of the ASU Symphony and Strings program. He also directs the Concho Valley Chamber Orchestra, which he founded in 2013. He regularly performs with the Big Spring and Midland-Odessa symphonies, as well as Texas country singer Case Hardin’s Day Money Band.
While a student at Smith-Cotton, Dr. Kelley was a four-year performer and letterman in orchestra; he also played in S-C’s Jazz Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Jazz Combo and Pep Band. He was in the Pit Orchestra for four musicals. He was active in other areas, as well, earning three letters in football, participating in track as a freshman, coaching Powder Puff Football and being active in the Latin club.
He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he was a recipient of the prestigious Othmer Graduate Fellowship, a Master of Music degree from Louisiana State University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Missouri State University. Currently, he is working toward a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction, which he will complete this summer.
Before relocating to Texas, he served as a Strings Specialist in the Kansas City, Kansas, school district and taught Orchestra and Humanities at Sumner Academy of Arts and Science. He has been an Instructional Systems Specialist for the Army School of Music and served on the faculties of Concordia University and Union College in Nebraska. Early in his career he was an instrumental music teacher in Lawrence, Kansas and the Double Bass Instructor at the University of Kansas. Over the past 25 years he has performed in the U.S. and Europe with a variety of ensembles including 15 symphony orchestras. He has also performed with jazz and popular artists such as Roger Ingram, Bobby Shew, Frank Mantooth, Si Zentner, John Davidson, Ahmad Alaadeen, Clark Terry, and Frankie Avalon.
He was deployed to Iraq as a member of the 36th Infantry Division Band. During that assignment, his non-musical duties included being the Sergeant of the Guard and a Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare Specialist. He received the Bronze Star Medal for service in Iraq.
Dr. Kelley is a second-generation Smith-Cotton graduate. His parents, Norris and Peggy Kelley, graduated in the 1950s. Norris was inducted into the S-C Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.
Wayne E. Brown
You’ll get no argument on whether Wayne Brown is worthy of Hall of Fame status.
A member of Smith-Cotton’s Class of 1957, Brown devoted much of his life to the art of speech and debate, first as an S-C student and later as an educator and entrepreneur. He became a national influencer in the field, receiving four National Forensics League Diamond Key Awards and earning induction into the league’s Hall of Fame in 1994.
Even as a young boy, Brown found debate and competitive speech to be a fun and challenging activity. He was an active debater and thespian through high school, serving as president of the Smith-Cotton National Forensics League chapter, which at the time was the largest in Missouri. He continued his education at Central Missouri State University, now the University of Central Missouri, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics and later a master’s degree in Education and History. He also did post-graduate work at the University of Missouri’s Columbia and Kansas City campuses, and at Ottawa University and Rockhurst University in Kansas City.
Brown taught debate and public speaking at Center High School in Kansas City for 30 years, leading his students to success at local, state and national competitions. He also served as adjunct faculty at CMSU, UMKC, Rockhurst and in the Metropolitan Community College district. He provided insights on high school debate in textbooks and films, and was recognized as the 1985 Teacher of the Year by the Speech & Theater Association of Missouri; he also served on that group’s board of directors.
In 1978, Brown founded the Midwest Debate Institute at Rockhurst, which started as a summer debate camp for students. The camp focused on motivating and instructing high school students in the use of research, logic and oral persuasion. As a high school debate coach, he had 45 students compete in 17 national tournaments, earning two leading chapter awards and three district trophies. He also produced the National Forensic Library of videotapes.
Brown retired from teaching at Center in 1993, and passed away on July 30, 1995. He is survived by his wife Carla, and their four daughters, Lisa Miller, Wynne D. Demas, Katie Nagus, and Jenny Barth.
Today Brenton Ryan’s voice fills the most storied venues around the world, but he recalls his connection with music and theatre beginning by sitting at a piano with his grandmother, Ginger Swearingen, on Christmas Eve in 1995 as she played Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”
Ryan, a 2005 graduate of Smith-Cotton High School, has performed with the largest opera houses in the United States, including the Metropolitan Opera of New York City, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Opera Philadelphia, the Dallas Opera and many more, including Opera Theatre of St. Louis. In March 2019, he made his debut at Opera de Monte-Carlo in Monaco.
During his S-C career, Ryan carried a 4.2 GPA while being involved with show choir, vocal music, National Honor Society and the Tigers boys golf team; he also excelled in German language studies. He consistently received “1” ratings at district and state vocal music contests, and as a sophomore was selected for the National American Choral Directors Association’s Men and Boys Choir. His junior year he was selected for the All-District and All-State Choirs, feats he repeated his senior year. He was nominated for the Missouri Fine Arts Academy in 2004 and was nominated for the Danforth Scholarship at Washington University in 2005.
He earned a bachelor of arts degree in Music, Voice Performance in 2009 from DePaul University in Chicago, graduating Summa Cum Laude. Next came a master’s degree in Music, Voice Performance in 2011 from Rice University in Houston, again graduating Summa Cum Laude. He was a member of the Los Angeles Opera Young Artist Program from 2014-16. Also in 2016, he won the Operalia Birgit Nilsson Award at Placido Domingo’s International Opera Competition in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Ryan is a two-time Grammy Award winner, for Best Opera Recording in 2016 and 2017. He also was the soloist in the 2012 film “In Our Nature.”
A piece on Ryan in Bravo Magazine references his start in musical theater in 1996 in “Oliver!” at Sedalia’s own Liberty Center for the Performing Arts when he was just 9 years old. Ryan would grace the Liberty Center stage six more times, his last being in “Godspell” in 2002 under the direction of the late Thom Fuller.
Ryan now lives in New York City with his wife, Naomi Louisa O’Connell, and says he “will forever be indebted to my parents, Gena and Stafford Swearingen, for their unwavering love and support.”
Danny Watring’s name is synonymous with music education in Missouri.
A member of Smith-Cotton High School’s Class of 1981, Watring taught instrumental music for 30 years before his retirement in 2016. His teaching career started with Grandview schools as an associate band director; he later served as associate band director in the Liberty School District and Director of Bands at Oak Park High School in the North Kansas City School District before finishing his high school teaching career back at Grandview as the Director of Bands.
Watring most recently served as adjunct professor of percussion and music education at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, and conducted the Penn Valley Community College Jazz Ensemble in Kansas City. He also was a guest director, clinician, drill writer and adjudicator across the Midwest, conducting and judging concert bands, marching bands, and jazz bands. He also had a private percussion studio placing several students into the all-district and all-state bands.
During his days at S-C, Watring earned All-District Band recognition three times and a Superior rating at the state Solo Festival twice. He received both the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award and the John Philip Sousa Band Award during his senior year, when he also was a class officer.
He attended Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, where he was named Outstanding Senior Music Education Major, and MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. Watring was a member of the All-American Olympic Marching Band for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and outstanding player/soloist at the at Elmhurst College Jazz Festival in Chicago.
Watring served as the jazz vice-president for the Missouri Music Educators Association; vice-president for the Missouri Association of Jazz Educators, and vice-president for both concert and jazz bands in the Kansas City Metro #3 District. He is also the founder of the Greater Kansas City Middle School Solo and Ensemble Festival. He was inducted into the National Honor Society of America's High School Educators in 2004. In 2019, he was recognized as the Missouri Association of Jazz Education’s “Outstanding Jazz Educator.”
Watring, who passed away in May 2020, is survived by two children, Devan Watring and Madison Watring Fritts.