Tisdale ‘will be missed greatly’

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 13, 2013

While Joe Tisdale’s earthly song ended Wednesday, the angels surely snapped to, straightened their robes and gave a musical welcome fit only for the late, famed Opp High School choral director.

After all, he wouldn’t have had it any other way, right?



Born in Andalusia, Tisdale spent the majority of his young life in Crestview, Fla. He later earned a master’s degree in music from Troy University. He was an Opp fixture from 1967 until his retirement in 1986. During his time as head of the OHS choral group, The Voices, Tisdale brought to life such classics as “Hello, Dolly,” “Carnival,” “Bye-Bye Birdie” and “Annie Get Your Gun.”

It was during those performances – and others like it – that countless students benefited from Tisdale’s wealth of knowledge, his willingness to teach and his desire to entertain.

“Those performances were where a variety of talents were discovered and local stars were born,” said Emily Edgar, Opp City School’s assistant superintendent. “We are thankful for tremendous notoriety that these performances and Mr. Tisdale’s tireless work brought to Opp High School and the City of Opp. He will be missed greatly.”

Former student Braxton Kendrick is now a music minister in Cleveland, Tenn.

“(Tisdale) took Opp by storm when he moved there,” Kendrick said. “He introduced a lot of us to not only music, but also culture. He introduced us to the concept that we could not only sing, but love music. He taught us to be disciplined, and not only do a job, but do it right and with pride.

“He have me and countless others our love for music,” he said. “If it were not for him, I probably wouldn’t be in music ministry today. There are too many of his legacies waking around today, all over this county, to count.”

Another former student, Kathryn Kirkland, described Tisdale as “one of a kind,” and said that he was one of few teachers who could walk “that thin line between teacher, and best pal.”

“We were never scared of him – we were scared of disappointing him,” she said.

During his tenure, the choral program was described as one of the best because of Tisdale’s “work ethic, and his ability to get a bunch of cheerleaders, jocks, nerds, and brainiacs vying for attention to be in his class, to make Varsity Singers, and the coveted spot of being one of The Voices,” Kirkland said.

“Mr. Tisdale’s influence on me, and so many others, has caused so many of us to go into music careers or choir directors, bands, singers, and some have even appeared on Broadway,” Kirkland said. “It’s rather mind-blowing to sit and think that because of the work ethic he instilled in so many of us, that our children, our grandchildren and so on, have learned to love music in a way most don’t, and taught us the value of believing in ourselves…whether we were shy or didn’t feel we could sing.”

Tisdale was also known for his great sense of humor. In fact, one of his greatest stunts was when he and wife, Faye, tricked the entire community into attending their wedding ceremony, which they disguised as a concert.

Tisdale’s love of music shined through when he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1985, and even then, the music didn’t stop. With his left hand and left foot and a paralyzed right side, Tisdale served as organist at Opp’s First United Methodist Church until failing health sent him home, and ultimately to Heaven on Wed., Dec. 11.

To honor his memory, Mrs. Tisdale is inviting all former Voices members to sing at Tisdale’s funeral on Sat., Dec. 12, at 2 p.m. A rehearsal will be held at 10 a.m. in the Westview Baptist Church choir room. Those interested in participating should visit Mrs. Tisdale’s Facebook page to sign up.

Additionally, a citywide choir will also practice Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Westview. There is no need to register.

Former student Louisa Mann-Baker said, “It’s impossible to put into words what he meant to so many. In fact, when I heard of his passing, I turned to my devotional and found this saying by Winston Churchill, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’

“That was Joe,” she said. “What he did for students and the community, it wasn’t just a job. It was his calling – his life.”