Snyder retires after 44 years at The Presbyterian Church

| October 2, 2020

Charles R. Snyder recently retired after 44 years at The Presbyterian Church in Coshocton. (Submitted)

Charles R. Snyder recently retired after 44 years at The Presbyterian Church in Coshocton. “Although I’ve joked about retiring for years, it just never seemed like the right time,” said Snyder. “Then when we were sent home in mid-March,  and after extensive Covid-19 research regarding the cautions of singing for choirs and congregations, I knew there wouldn’t be singing for some time. So this seemed to be the responsible thing to do.”

After studying music, English, and religion at Capital University, Snyder, who moved to Coshocton in the sixth grade, began his career teaching vocal and instrumental music, grades one through 12,  in the Highland Local Schools in Morrow County. In 1970, at the invitation of Coshocton superintendent Roy McKinley,  he returned to Coshocton as the vocal/choral teacher for grades five through eight at the newly-opened Coshocton Middle School. By the second year, 900 of the 1,150 students auditioned for the choirs, and he chose 100 singers for each grade.

“It was in 1971, while teaching at the middle school, that we organized the Coshocton Community Choir,” said Snyder.  “Mr. McKinley encouraged us to have the community choir rehearsals in my music room at the school.”

In the spring of 1974, after four years at the middle school, Snyder resigned to pursue further music study. But because he had been the camp director at the Muskingum Valley Scout Reservation for three years, the scout executive persuaded him to take the job as a district scout executive for Muskingum Valley Council.

“Then in the summer of 1976, Helen Wright came to visit me at camp, and encouraged me to continue the community choir. She offered to take care of the business side of the choir and also be the accompanist. Helen, who had played for the second community choir concert, was also the organist at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church and she invited the community choir to rehearse and hold their concerts there. Bob Millspaugh was the pastor there at the time and was very supportive of the community choir.

“The talk with Helen reminded me of how much I had missed music in my life while I was a district executive. The community choir had taken a back seat for two years. After much prayer and talking with trusted friends and Mr. Bushong, our Scout executive, I resigned, not knowing what I would do next. But I did agree to continue as director of the Scout camp.”

In August, Snyder was offered a job at the Presbyterian Church and began his first assignment there in January 1977 as assistant to the minister – Robert W. Millspaugh. Initially there were no music responsibilities in this role, but focused on Christian education and youth ministry. But within months he was leading the Geneva Handbell Choir, and in May a new high school choir presented the musical drama,’Lightshine!’

He assumed leadership of the Crusaders Choir in the fall of 1979, and in January 1980, Snyder became minister of music and Christian education. “When I began my work in 1977, I had no idea that the new job would become my life’s work and mission,” Snyder said. He served three years leading the Christian education ministry, 19 years with both Christian education and music responsibilities, and 22 years focused on music ministry.

Snyder handled many assignments at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church including a number of years as editor of the then-weekly Carillon; seven years leading the senior high youth group after Lois and Dick Forsythe retired; more than 20 years teaching the confirmation class; launching the Bethel Series Bible study; starting the Logos after-school program for kids; helping lead the Stephen Ministry; serving on presbytery committees; leading seminars at Muskingum’s Center for Church Life and for the Muskingum Valley Presbytery; and serving on or chairing committees for the Coshocton County Association of Churches.

The church’s music ministry hit its zenith in 2016-2018 with nine choirs, including the Cherub Choir for children ages 3-5; the Carol Choir for singers in grades 1-3; the Crusaders Choir for those in grades 4-8; the Chancel Choir for high school through adult singers; Westminster Ringers, the handbell choir for high school/adult ringers; Moving Spirit – a men’s octet; Celebration Singers for high school/college singers; Cantare – a women’s sextet; and the Geneva Handbell Choir for youth/beginning ringers. “What was so special about these choirs, especially for the teens, is that they would invite their friends to come and sing/ring in the choirs with them,” Snyder said.  “It was a wonderful outreach.”

Snyder says he has many fond memories of special moments at The Presbyterian Church such as the commissioning of the church’s two pipe organs; the organ concerts made possible by Joe Engle; the dozens of handbell ringers who come back each year on Christmas Eve for the ‘ringing in of Christmas’; the many youth musicals; piano quartets;  the visiting choirs who have sung in the sanctuary or chapel; the ‘Sounds of Summer’ concerts; and hymn festivals with Michael Burkhardt and Hal Hopson.

It’s hard to imagine just how many music rehearsals Snyder has led at the Coshocton Presbyterian Church, not only for the numerous church choirs, but also the Coshocton Community Choir. “The Community Choir has actually rehearsed 44 of our 49 years at the church,” Snyder said. “We also added the Coshocton Children’s Choir (grades 4-8) in 1988, and The Coshocton Youth Chorale (high school aged singers) in 2003. These choirs also have rehearsed at the church.”

The Coshocton Community Choir would be entering its 50th year this fall, but due to Covid-19 and the dangers of singing, the Choir cancelled their spring 2020 rehearsals and concert, as well as the 2020 fall rehearsals and Christmas concert. Plans to celebrate their 50th season have been postponed to the spring of 2022. “Although we have every hope to be able to rehearse and sing again for our Spring 2021 concert, we felt more confident planning the 50th anniversary event for spring, 2022,” Snyder said.

Snyder has transitioned his music studio/office at the church to a home office;  and there’s also a new office for the Coshocton Community Choir and Cardinal Chorale on Walnut Street in Coshocton. “We are so grateful to have received a grant from the Coshocton Foundation to assist us with the establishment of our new headquarters for these choirs,” Snyder said. “The Coshocton Community Choir also recently received a generous bequest from Richard Wangen in memory of his wife, Margaret, which greatly assists us in continuing the mission of the choir.”

To contact Snyder, the Coshocton Community Choir or the Cardinal Chorale, call 740-623-0554, or email: [email protected] Learn more about the Coshocton Community Choir on Facebook or at www.coshoctoncommunitychoir.org; Find out more about the Cardinal Chorale on Facebook, on their website: www.thecardinalchorale.com, or email: [email protected] The new office for both choirs is located at 1035 Walnut Street (rear entrance), Coshocton. Call ahead before visiting. The choir plans an open house at a later date.

So what’s next for Snyder?

“Once singing returns, I plan to continue my work with the Coshocton Community Choirs and the Cardinal Chorale.” he said.  “And I hope to do some writing, some guest conducting, perhaps lead another church choir, and see how else God may use me.”

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About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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