Carolyn H. Rogers loved to play the piano. She started playing at age 3 and continued until she passed away in December 2018 at the age of 91. 

The Fischer grand piano was a staple in her home before she met her future husband, Dr. Alfred P. Rogers.

“The plate says ‘Her soul mate for 80 years.’ It was,” he said. “I would hear her at night. She would be playing and there wouldn’t be a light on.”

Now, it will help develop a new generation of musicians after the piano was given to Pleasant Hill Elementary, along with a financial gift to help pay for piano lessons for students.

Carolyn Hodge Rogers was born Dec. 31, 1926, in Birmingham, AL. Her father was a Methodist minister and bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference. 

When she was 3 years old, she made her way to a piano in the hallway of her parents’ home and began experimenting with the keys. Soon, the individual notes joined in a melody — “Joy to the World.”

Because her father was a Methodist minister, the family moved a lot. But Carolyn continued to develop her piano skills. She often played by ear, mimicking the tunes she would hear. When she was 12 and living in Nashville, she was able to perform at an event that featured First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt — something she remembered fondly years later.

“She was marvelous,” Carolyn told the Chronicle for an article in 2016. 

She graduated from the University of Chattanooga in 1948 with a degree in music piano performance. She and Alfred Rogers married in 1956 and they made their home in Chattanooga where he was a general surgeon. 

The couple were long-time patrons of the Cumberland County Playhouse and, after they moved to Pleasant Hill in 2003, Carolyn Rogers began volunteering by playing the piano in the Playhouse lobby before shows. She also took part in Musical Mondays at Uplands Village, playing music for the residents there. She was in demand as a pianist, organist and teacher at churches, schools and other social gatherings. 

“She could accompany singers or other musicians,” Alfred Rogers said. “She was really a talented pianist.”

When she passed away in December 2018, no one in the family could take the beloved piano so Alfred contacted the school. 

“Sometimes you have children who are musicians who don’t have access to the tools to find out if they’re a musician,” daughter Betsy Hawkins said. 

Alfred Rogers wants the students to use the beloved piano.

“Don’t treat it like china,” he said. “I would be happy for it to be a 99-cent plate from Walmart. That’s what it is meant to be.”

Hawkins agreed. 

“I know my mother is so happy right now to know her piano is being used this way,” she said. 

Alfred Rogers has also established a fund at the school to help pay for piano instruction for students and seeded the program with a $10,000 gift.

The Carolyn H. Rogers Piano Performance Fund will allow up to four students a day to receive 30 minutes of private piano instruction during the after-school extended learning program.

“We can’t wait to see how this changes children’s lives,” said Principal Tammy Knipp. “It gives kids another way to connect with the community of Pleasant Hill School and the world. It lets them know they have a place here and are part of our family.”

Knipp related comments from Hawkins on the power of music.

“Music is a conduit for communicating,” she said. “It allows us to speak to each other’s soul.”

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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