CCAC Announces Honorees
"Music and Bread," by Conrad Aiken, opens with these lines: Music I heard with you was more than music. Bread I broke with you was more than bread."
A poem from 1917 may seem too sentimental for this century; nevertheless, the message fits Clay County Arts Council Celebration of the Arts honorees Larry Ross Norred and Cathy Jane Jones Norred. This duo, whose lives intersected early through melodies and beautiful eyes, has contributed to the arts throughout their careers and through their desire to serve.
Larry Norred, a professional musician, began his journey to "heart healing music" with a daily dose of physical encouragement from his mother, the late Wanda Norred. She and several local musicians saw in young Larry a gift that needed support until the spark could be fanned into a musical inferno.
Whether at the keyboard with his demanding piano teacher in the early years, or through opportunities at Piggott High School and beyond into collegiate life, Larry always sought additional technique and deeper knowledge of music theory. Throughout his years at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, Larry arranged for the Baylor Golden Wave Band and for theatrical performances throughout the campus. His work there with professional mentors led him to a degree in music merchandising awarded in 1975 from the University of Miami.
Cathy Jane Jones grew up on the Jones farm in Rector, owned by her paternal grandparents. Her father and mother, Denzil and Dollie Jones, as well as the rest of the family, lived there until winter, when their dad sought employment in St Louis. She attended kindergarten there during one especially long winter. The family decided to return to Rector, where Cathy's talents blossomed.
Her gift is in performing -- singing and dancing, skills she learned not only from a few private lessons but from having a keen eye and a sense of musical representation. She said by "watching the June Taylor Dancers on the Red Skelton Show" she internalized their dance segments and committed them to memory, teaching herself to dance. She taught herself the first five ballet positions before she ever took a lesson.
Cathy got an invitation to the Mid-South Fair in Memphis when she won the local talent show. While in Memphis, she was approached about recording. She and her family considered it affirming, but not something they'd sell the farm for her to pursue. Cathy played in the band, taught herself to twirl the baton and sang in the school choir.
It would seem that Larry and Cathy, two lovers of music, would naturally cross paths, though they lived in different towns in Clay County. Providence provided the initial collaboration, however, as Larry played his first accompaniment for one of Cathy's vocals. Larry's fascinating life story and his comment about Cathy's eyes was told to Nancy Kemp for the Winter 2013 Delta Crossroads feature article "Gifted Hands." Larry said her eyes grabbed him and it was love at first sight.
"She was the first person I'd ever accompanied; she certainly was the prettiest," he said.
In 1978, Larry and Cathy celebrated their love for music and each other and forged a life-long partnership. Their marriage cemented their love and support for each other and would take them to Mukwonago, Wisc., where Larry worked in the early formation of Jensen Publications in Milwaukee. Larry had been interning with Hal Leonard Publishing and was experiencing much success. While he worked with the Jensen company, becoming its vice president of production, Cathy became involved again in teaching dance aerobics and coaching dance teams as she had done in Fort Smith and other towns where she had lived. Her degree from Arkansas State University in physical education opened doors to choreography and gymnastics instruction in addition to classroom opportunities.
While the couple lived in Wisconsin and Larry worked with Jensen, Cathy enjoyed a brief stint as a studio singer. She also wrote lyrics for several published pieces and would sing her tunes to Larry, who had the gift to write the music for her creations. During this time, the couple's first son, Geoffrey Ross Norred, was born.
Family brought the couple back to Clay County when Larry's father needed help with the Piggott Tractor and Equipment Company. Never putting obligation to the side, Larry and Cathy pitched in to help the family while still working in music through First Baptist Church and other personal and civic activities. Cathy began to teach in the Piggott schools and was tapped to choreograph high school musicals in both Piggott and Rector. During the early years of their return to Clay County, their second son John Jordan Norred was born.
Larry and Cathy have shared their talents by judging Miss America preliminary pageants in three states. They work together in the Clay County Arts Council, where Cathy is on the board. She has appeared in Night of Chocolate dinner theatre and enjoys performing. Larry can always be counted on to play keyboard for events and dinners, to provide orchestration and musical interludes for events throughout the south. He has conducted the Delta Symphony Orchestra, marveling at the experience of those amazing musicians responding to his baton.
In 2013, he and Cathy traveled to Mississippi State University to the Baptist Student Union Barn Dance, where Cathy taught 300 students to square dance and line dance.
"It was a night to remember," she said.
Both Larry and Cathy are integral to programming at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center. On one occasion, he provided dinner music for a Hemingway and Friends 1920's Reading Retreat and Costume Dinner and Cathy taught a group of participants how to dance the Charleston. In addition to skill in performance, Cathy is a published fiction writer and a comedienne.
Larry also plays the trumpet, jazz piano and numerous other instruments. His jazz group, Just Friends, features Cathy as vocalist. Larry's passion, however, is in composing, arranging and publishing music. He and Cathy experimented with a local music studio in Kennett and met with success but have determined to leave that avenue for another day, especially after Larry's heart reconstruction surgery.
Larry has heard his own jazz arrangement of America the Beautiful entitled "Amber Waves" played by a military band, which he says was "the musical highlight of his career." The orchestration of a piece of music speaks to Larry in ways gifted musicians comprehend as he hears and appreciates all the nuances and voices of each manipulation.
As contributors to the arts in their careers and volunteer work throughout Clay County and Piggott with various boards and community events, as extraordinary artists in their own areas, the Clay County Arts Council is proud to recognize and honor Larry and Cathy Norred at the annual Celebration of the Arts.
The event will be held Saturday, June 4 at the Rector Community Center. All tickets will be sold in advance and may be purchased from Madpie's Tea Room and Shoppes and Suzy's in Piggott and Honeysuckle and Home and the Rector Water Department in Rector. CCAC board members also have tickets. The price is $30 per ticket for members and $35 per ticket for non-members.