One seventh-grade music class in 1974 changed Fred Verd’s life — and it was all because of the Coupeville School District music director Rosie Walter.
“She influenced me a lot,” said Verd, “on just making me feel like I belonged, like I was part of a band.”
Walter, who taught music in Coupeville schools from 1965 to 1974, passed away Aug. 12, 2017. Verd, who now lives in California, had returned to Whidbey Island last year for the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival and hoped to visit his old music teacher.
He had kept in touch with her for the last 10 years of her life.
“When I called her, it was her sister that answered and said she’d died about two days prior,” Verd said.
He went to her house and Walter’s sister gave him a box that had a program and recording of every performance her students did during her tenure in Coupeville. Every student who performed was recorded and Verd was amazed, even as an adult, at the high level of performances by the young musicians.
“It really brings back memories,” he said.
Verd wanted to share what Walter had saved with other former students whom Walter impacted. He created a web page to share everything he had of hers. He uploaded multiple photos of her from past yearbooks and all the programs.
He said he’s still in the process of adding all the audio recordings of the performances.
“Anybody that was one of her students is definitely going to enjoy the website,” he said.
He hopes others will add more to help preserve Walter’s legacy. He included a way for others to submit stories of the old music director.
Verd said although he thought she was “an outstanding teacher,” she wasn’t exactly popular with all of her students.
“She was very militant in her teaching,” he said. “She took baloney from nobody … People either loved her or hated her.”
As a seventh grader, Verd played trumpet in the band but was struggling with the instrument. Walter suggested he switch to baritone, and suddenly his musical world opened up, Verd said.
He found more success there and later in life picked up a number of other instruments.
Now living in San Diego, Verd plays guitar, bass and sings in a number of bands. He credits her discipline with inspiring him to do better in all aspects of life, not just music.
“She pushed everybody to do their best at everything they did,” he said.
If students didn’t work hard, she always seemed to know, he said. During class, she would pick students to perform part of a song they were supposed to have practiced for homework. If the student didn’t practice, it was usually immediately obvious and she would send them to a room by themselves to work on it.
“With a little bit of embarrassment, she got everyone in the class to do their homework,” he said with a laugh.
She rewarded junior high students who excelled by allowing them to perform with the high school band, he said. Her high standards paid off.
Verd said the band often competed against much bigger schools, “and we were kicking their butt.”
Walter’s ability to place students where they would excel, explain the history and background of the music, and command respect from her students set her apart, according to Verd. He said she “was a wealth of knowledge” in almost every aspect of music and also an excellent performer.
“I’ve never seen a teacher like her since,” Verd said. “She was just amazing, and I miss her.”
• Fred Verd’s website dedicated to Rosie Walter is at www.verdguitars.com/dev/rosies-kids/