LIMA — Dottie Deysher got her start in music at the tender age of 3 when she sang her first solo. With her deep, abiding love of music, it may not be so surprising then that she is starting her 63rd year as choir director for Central Christian Church.
Deysher said she actually inherited the choir from another church member, Alice Rossfeld. “When I was in third grade she started a junior choir,” she explained. “She directed it for 17 years, and in 1952, she decided I should do it.”
Deysher had both the education and experience. When she graduated from high school, she went to the Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College for a year. After that, she transferred to Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, where she got a degree in social work.
“I had enough hours to get a degree in music,” she said, “but they didn’t give double majors back then.”
Deysher spent two and a half years working as a social worker in Lima before quitting her job when she became pregnant with her daughter.
In her 63 years, Deysher has directed many different choirs at Central Christian Church including the Angelic Choir; the Chapel Choir; a high school choir, the Chancel Chorus; the Bell Tones, a hand chimes choir; the Lady Belles, a women’s bell choir; the Belles and Beaus, an adult bell choir; the Hand Chimes; and the Cathedral Bell Choir, a high school bell choir.
While some of these choirs were already in existence before Deysher started directing, she developed the various bell choirs herself. When asked why she loves bell choirs so much, Deysher said, “It’s an opportunity for those who are interested in music but don’t want to sing.”
She also added that while it is helpful for a bell choir member to have some musical background, it isn’t strictly necessary.
Currently, Deysher directs the 14 member Chancel Chorus and the 10 member Belles and Beaus. “The most I ever directed were seven choirs at one time,” she said.
Even directing just two choirs, Deysher keeps busy. The weekly one-hour rehearsals do not take the most time, though. “I spend so much time when I am away from there,” she said. “I select all my music in the month of August. I dedicate that month to doing that, so when we start in September I know what we are singing in May.”
In addition, Deysher arranges music to work with her choirs so the operation is smooth. The Chancel Chorus performs weekly during the worship service, while the Belles and Beaus perform four times a year during the worship service.
Deysher’s husband, Edward Deysher, who died 13 months ago, was always supportive of his wife’s musical abilities. “He always helped me any way he could,” she said.
Her husband was also musical, as he sang in Deysher’s choir and played the clarinet and saxophone in high school and college. Deysher’s only daughter has carried on her mother’s musical legacy, also. “She has played the organ in her church in Kentucky for 35 years,” said Deysher. “My grandson and granddaughter sing in the church choir, and my son-in-law directs the church choir.”
In addition to a musical family, Deysher has deep roots in Central Christian Church itself. “I’ve been going here since I was 10 days old,” she said. “My parents have gone here and my grandparents. My grandfather was an elder and my grandmother used to bake the communion bread.”
Those deep roots have led Deysher to not just be involved in the church’s music programs. Currently, she is head of the Prayer Shawl Ministry which makes and distributes prayer shawls. She has been a trustee for 27 years, and she is the head of the worship committee as well as being on the official church board. She is also a member of the Christian Women’s Fellowship and served two terms as president, once in the 1960s and again in the 1980s.
Despite being 87, Deysher is not sure if she will ever retire. “I still enjoy it, and we still seem to be producing,” she said. “I’ve been in the music field so long. I’ve done solo work for ‘Messiah all over this area. I also sang on the Easter Straker Show for 15 years. … I’ve used my voice along with the other choir stuff. I can’t really imagine not doing it.”
For Deysher, directing and using her voice are ways to serve God. “I feel like our appearances are made to be for the glory of God, not a performance,” she said. “It’s an offering to the glory of God.”
In the end, it is not just the music that keeps Deysher directing. “My biggest reward is working with the people,” she said. “I love every one of them. It’s my extended family.”