Friends remember Davis, longtime LaGrange choral instructor, who died from COVID-19

Published 3:16 pm Wednesday, December 9, 2020

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Marty Davis, who was influential in the LaGrange arts community, died Wednesday morning from COVID-19.

Davis was a longtime music education instructor who served the community in that role for more than four decades.

For almost 20 years, Davis was the choral director at LaGrange High School and in 2007 when she retired, Davis became the vocal coach and artistic assistant for Young Singers of West Georgia. Davis also served as the Music Director at Loyd Presbyterian Church

Longtime friend and colleague Stacey Hardigree said she met Davis after graduating college when she started her teaching career in Troup County.

“I started teaching and was the choral director at Troup High School in 1996 and Marty was at LaGrange High School,” Hardigree said. “Marty had this fabulous program. She just really inspired me.”

Hardigree said she encouraged her students to be as good at the LHS program.

“That was our first encounter with each other, and we had a friendly little banter with each other,” Hardigree said. “She had always been so kind but we always kidded about our rivalry.”

In 2003, Hardigree left THS to become the YSWG Conductor and Artistic Director. She said for about four years while Hardigree was working for YSWG they weren’t able to stay in touch as much but remained friends.

Hardigree asked Davis to join the staff for YSWG when she retired from LHS in 2007.

“She was so thrilled, gracious and so honored to be remembered, and valued and included,” Hardigree said. “She always said, ‘you don’t know how is means to me to be included.’”

Davis would help in any way she could with the young singers, especially the female singers.

Davis had a passion for women vocal groups and teaching proper vocal technique and vocalise.

“Those girls were so fortunate enough to have that kind of teaching,” Hardigree said. “She just brought in this whole element of fascination with the voice. She would teach the physiology and the art of breathing and singing music lines.”

She has even performed with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, the Chicago Symphony Chorus and the Atlanta Symphony Chorus.

Hardigree said that Davis would sit with her for hours to help research music and pick songs for performances.

This weekend would have the 13th year the two would do host the annual YSWG Christmas show, ‘Christmas Memories.’

“This is our YSWG 25th anniversary show that she helped me prepare for,” Hardigree said. “I’m just heartbroken but that is why I went ahead and wrote a post on how I feel about her so I can pick up the pieces.”

The show will go on as planned on Friday at the Lagrange High School Auditorium.

“My students deserve my best,” Hardigree said. “I have a duty to do and she would do and want the same.”

One of her past students, Elizabeth Arena, said they had reconnected, and Davis was helping her reclaim her musical voice again.

“Last year at this time, we were prepping my ‘grand return to music’ recital as she called it,” Arena said. “This was one of her famous good ideas, so I went along with it. She worked tirelessly with me, learning music, arranging the logistics, finding the flowers, inviting everyone she knew. She was my biggest cheerleader even when I didn’t believe in myself.”

As news of the passing of Davis made its way through social media, past and present students and friends posted on Davis’s Facebook wall words of gratitude and love of Davis.

One past student, Angelyn Traylor wrote, “the number of lives Ms. Davis touched is too many to number. I know I’m not the only person who can say she encouraged me to dream bigger and work harder. I am grateful for time we were able to spend together this past year, collaborating on a couple of her students’ recitals. I thought there would be so much more of that ahead and, I know there will be, just not on this side of heaven. For now, she will be sorely missed, but there are many of us who will endeavor to carry on her legacy.”

Hardigree’s daughter, Billie Anne, said that Davis one of the most special people she ever met.

“I have her to thank for some of my life’s sweetest memories and proudest moments to date,” Bille Anne said. “She was able to inspire a confidence in myself that is often difficult to find. She gave 100 percent of herself to everything she did whether it was her chorus program, her workout, YSWG, her church or the person sitting across from her in her living room. You could be sure that she was present with you for every moment you spent with her.”

Hardigree said that since the pandemic started Davis was extra careful because she had underlying health conditions.

“She would say that she was the one that everybody probably needs to keep safe because [she was] susceptible,” Hardigree said. “It’s just devastating.”

Hardigree noted that Davis left behind an amazing, longstanding legacy.

“Marty Davis was a legend,” Hardigree said. “She formulated a music program that spurred so many musicians to continue with careers, and to enjoy music for the rest of their lives. She poured out herself to everyone she knew. Someone said to me today that Davis she believed so strongly in her students that they didn’t have a choice but to believe in themselves..”