At 86 years old, Sharon Ingram has been trying to retire for over 20 years. “They say the Bible has no retirement plan, but I keep thinking I need to try to find some place to sit down and relax. Every time I think I’m finished [teaching], God seems to have something else for me to do.”
Ingram started teaching music soon after earning a bachelor’s degree in music and theory at the College of Theological Seminary in Anderson, IN. She continued her education at Wichita State University, earning a master’s in music education.
“Music has been my life,” she says. At the age of four, she became fascinated with the piano at the home of a woman who was friends with her parents. “Whenever we visited, I would climb up on the bench, open the hymnal (sometimes it would be upside down) and invite everyone to come sing.” Happily, they obliged. “They would be singing – whatever – and I would be ‘playing’ along with them.” Eventually, her parents got her lessons that she continued until she left for college.
While still in college, Ingram began teaching the children of some of the members of the church where she played. She went house to house teaching on weekends until she was able to set up a studio. She taught private lessons from her studio for over 60 years, while simultaneously teaching music in the public K-12 schools. Ingram also devoted a great deal of service to the Gospel Music Workshop of America – Sunflower Chapter.
After her “first” retirement from USD 259, she accepted a “short-term” assignment at Butler Community College, which ultimately lasted over 12 years. The same week of her “second” retirement (from Butler) one of her godsons (“all my students call me ‘Godmother’”) visited from Atlanta and shared his vision for her next calling … a music school.
“I had just left Butler and was beginning to shut down my home studio. He comes to my house and says, ‘You need to make this go beyond you …make it into a school of music.’” Ingram convinced herself to ignore the prophecy until “he called a week later and said, ‘Mom, it’s supposed to be a non-profit. Call it Northeast Area Performing Arts.’”
So, at age 80+, Ingram reluctantly answered the call to launch a performing arts school.
“Who does this crazy thing … starting this type of a new adventure … at my age,” she asked God? She heard the answer come clearly in her spirit, “Everyone in the Bible that I [God] ever used in a special way: Noah, Abraham and Moses to name a few.”
She made a list of people and resources she would need, then made a few calls. Nearly every person she contacted said “yes.” Even students seemed to come out of nowhere. “A few students came with me from my studio. The dance teacher had people already wanting to take lessons. Some of them had friends who wanted percussion, so that teacher had students too, even before we opened.”
But the pandemic pushed the pause button on things just as they were taking off. “[COVID-19] wiped us out pretty quickly. We had to shut down immediately when the governor gave the statewide order.” Just to make certain things were paused, Ingram fell and broke her ankle in two places. She can’t put any weight on it for at least another six weeks.
Never one to be idle, Ingram has been pursuing another passion, teaching Bible study. With her extensive teaching experience, she couldn’t find lessons to her liking, so she wrote her own. So far, she’s written study guides for the books of Revelation, John and Daniel.
“If my life hadn’t centered around music, I would probably be a Bible study leader. That may still be something I pursue … down the road.”
Whether her activity is self-initiated or guided from above, Ingram may never “find someplace to just sit and relax.” She continues serving on the Board of Directors for the Gospel Music Workshop of America.
She anticipates restarting her school as soon as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Depending on how long that takes, she may have developed a full curriculum of Bible studies. She already has a collection of students waiting for the next installment.