Polk State remembers John Anderson for his instrumental impact on music education in college and beyond

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

It’s almost impossible to think of Polk State College’s music program without thinking of John Anderson as well. He served the College for 20 years and saw the music program experience exponential growth and success.

Polk State mourns the loss of Anderson, who retired in August 2020 and died on November 15, 2021. He was 66 years old.

“He has been a vital part of our music community in Polk County. For as long as I’ve known him and long before that, he’s left such a huge impact on so many different levels, ”said Don West, a music teacher at Polk State, who has known Anderson for over 30 years. “John ‘walked the march’ and had no false pretenses. If you knew John, you knew exactly what he was doing in the classroom and in the community. You knew the quality of his character and his work. He was a leader in Polk County and across the state, and he will be missed. “

Anderson was a fourth generation Polk County native who graduated from Bartow High School in 1973. He received a BA in Music Education from Florida Southern College and an MA in Choral Conducting and Literature from the University of South Florida.

He served Polk County Public Schools for 28 years including Mulberry Middle, Auburndale Middle, Jewett Academy, Bartow High, and Lake Region High. Under his leadership, choral programs have been successful locally, state and nationally, and he has received teacher of the year recognition at Bartow and Lake District High Schools.

“John ‘walked the march’ and had no false pretenses. If you knew John, you knew exactly what he was doing in the classroom and in the community. You knew the quality of his character and his work. He was a leader in Polk County and across the state, and he will be missed. “

Other highlights of Anderson’s career include directing a show at Carnegie Hall and directing the Disney Candlelight Cast Choir.

He joined Polk State in 2000 as an adjunct instructor and became a full-time faculty member in 2005. He was the only permanent instructor in the music program at the time and worked diligently to recruit 16 assistants. The program has grown from 15 students to almost 70, and Anderson has held positions including Music Department Coordinator and Director of Choral Activities during his tenure.

“When you see all of his accomplishments summed up in a few short paragraphs, it’s important to understand the incredible wealth of knowledge he brought to the classroom,” West explained. “As an organist, pianist, singer, director, he merged all of this into his teaching.

And his passion for music education included an innate desire to help his students reach their greatest potential.

“It was in his heart to give all he could to his students, colleagues and the profession,” West added. “He was here those mornings where he spent the whole night ill and received medical treatment. A lot of people wouldn’t do that. Jean could not not do it. It was important for him to be here with his students and colleagues.

“He was the kind of mentor and instructor who made you want to do your best because he gave his best.”

Michelle Manzi, a music teacher at Polk State, pointed to Anderson’s close relationship with the students and “how big his heart is to them.”

“He taught with so much passion and compassion,” she said. “He set the standard very high, but he never let the students out. “

Whether it was his generosity with his time, offering students the extra support they needed outside of class, or connecting them to resources like scholarships and financial aid, Anderson has always put it on the map. students first.

Manzi and West both credited Anderson for his unwavering support to his colleagues.

“He always gave us the support, resources and visibility we needed,” said Manzi. “He had a sincere love and care for people, and his faith motivated him. He imitated and lived his faith without ever having to say a word about it. It was just evident in his actions that he was an honorable, intelligent, talented and caring man.

“He taught with so much passion and compassion. He set the standard very high, but he never let the students out.

“He’s been a great mentor to me,” West added. “He was kind, caring, and genuine, and it’s relationships like this with John that give you strength, encouragement, and inspiration.”

Anderson was chosen by his fellow music teachers to lead the very first All-County Men’s Chorus as well as the Choral Directors’ Chorus of the Florida Vocal Association.

During his tenure at the College, Anderson also received the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Award of Excellence for demonstrating outstanding commitment and contribution to his students, as well as the award. Mid-Florida Credit Union Endowed Teaching Chair Award from the Polk State College Foundation for educational excellence.

In 2013, the town of Winter Haven presented Anderson with a proclamation for his work in music education and a Department of Fine Arts Award from the J. Owens Academy of Fine Arts. He was honored in front of an audience of over 300 people.

“Music has brought me such joy, and to be able to share it with others every day, I can’t imagine a better and more rewarding career,” Anderson said when receiving the award. “To be honored beyond that is more than I could ask for but also deeply appreciated.”

“If I can get someone to like music even a little bit, then I think I’ve done some good,” he said.

In lieu of flowers, Anderson’s family asked for donations to be made in his honor to support students and music education. Donations can be made online at foundation.polk.edu.

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