Abells donate grand piano by M. Jill Sundstrom Usher and Barnes Abell have shared their musical talents in and around Vermillion for many years � he as a professor of music at The University of South Dakota and she as a private music teacher.
This time however, the Abells� gift of music comes in the form of a grand piano that the couple has donated to Sioux Valley Vermillion Congregate Housing where they now reside.
�It was something we thought would be a nice addition to this place,� Barnes said. �It�s a place that needs music.�
The Abells bought the German-made piano in Sioux City, IA. After being a part of their home for 40 years, it is now located in the dining room of the congregate housing facility, which opened last September.
�Our lives have always been full of music,� Barnes said. �We could have sold the piano when we moved, but we thought it was better to have it here, where it will be taken care of and used.�
Music has always been a part of the Abells� lives. Both taught music at Ouachita College in Arkansas before Usher became a Navy musician in 1942. He was stationed for two years in Corpus Christi, TX, then worked as registrar at the Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C.
In 1946, Usher began his career at USD where he taught in the music department for 31 years � 16 of those as chairman of the department. He retired in 1976.
In the meantime, Barnes gave private music lessons, but together, they played in symphony orchestras, including those in Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Yankton, Omaha and Vermillion. Barnes is also an accomplished painter. She was a student of Oscar Howe for 14 years.
�I became his friend and student,� she said. �I became a part of his studio. Other students came and went, but they never had the chance to really understand him.�
Barnes� paintings will be exhibited June 4 through July 3 at the W.H. Over Museum. A reception is set for June 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. in Sletwold Hall.
The Abells will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in August. After living on the east edge of Vermillion for nearly 40 years, the couple moved to Sioux Valley Vermillion Congregate Housing last September. They are in the process of selling their former home, but the grand piano will stay with them. It was moved May 17 by Vanderhule Moving and Storage of Yankton.
�It still needs to be tuned after the move,� Barnes said. �But once it�s ready, we�ll have a special concert here.�