category: Faculty Emeriti - In Memory Of

Nettie Rayle Gidney

Professor Emerita of Voice

Nettie Rayle Gidney

Nettie Rayle Gidney (1909- 2005) was born in Greensboro, N.C., the second of five daughters, to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rayle. Her father was a carpenter and her mother, in Mrs. Gidney’s words, “was a true mother.” She was married to Robert S. Gidney of Shelby, N.C., and they had three children, Robert Jr., Charles William, and Rachel Elizabeth Briggs.

Gidney graduated as valedictorian of her class from Bessemer High School, Bessemer City, N.C., in 1928. She entered Guilford College, Greensboro, N.C., with a music scholarship in voice. During the next two years, she was taken under the wings of Dr. Max and Dorothy Noah; they were responsible for the Girl’s Glee Club and the Male Chorus. The Noahs recognized Gidney’s talent and utilized these gifts for the music department. Max Noah also served as the chair of the music department.

Wishing to give Gidney greater opportunities in music, the Noahs arranged for her to sing for Dr. John Finely Williamson of Westminster Choir College (located in Ithaca, N.Y., at the time, relocated to Princeton, N.J. in 1932). Williamson vocalized her C7 (C7 is C above High C) and in Gidney’s words, “…he just looked at me and gave me a four-year scholarship.” She entered Westminster College in the fall of 1930 and in 1932 served as student director of music at Watchung Presbyterian Church, Plainfield, N.J. The summers of 1932 and 1933 were spent waitressing at Lake Placid, N.Y., and participating in the church choir on Sundays. She was chosen May Queen by the Westminster students in the spring of 1934.

Gidney earned the Bachelor of Science degree in music from Westminster Choir College in 1934. Within the same year, she was hired as full-time minister of music at Central United Methodist Church in Shelby, N.C. She served the church in that capacity for 27 years and after her resignation, she remained a faithful choir member until 1991.

Gidney was named instructor of voice at Gardner-Webb in 1965. While at Gardner-Webb she organized and directed the Girl’s Glee Club, which led to the development of the Gardner-Webb Choir. She directed and toured with the choir until 1965. She also taught private voice, choral conducting, voice class, and vocal pedagogy.

Professionally, Mrs. Gidney was the soprano soloist selected in 1940 and 1941 for North and South Carolina Night, featured in Charlotte, N.C. She was a member of Delta Kappa Gamma and the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

In 1975, she was awarded Educator of America by the trustees, administration, faculty, and students for meritorious service to Gardner-Webb. Throughout her career, Gidney was active in many capacities of leadership in the music community of the area. She performed in churches, colleges, universities in the Southeast and for numerous functions, including those given by North Carolina Governors Clyde Hoey and O. Max Gardner (and their wives). Gidney was granted emerita status by the Board of Trustees in 1975 in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the college.

The following statements were taken from Dr. Max Noah’s letter to Gidney upon her retirement:

“We feel that you have risen to the great heights of achievement in life and developed God-given talents to the best of your ability. That is as it should be and we are proud to have had a small part in it. God bless you in the years to come.”

Gidney passed away in 2005.

Source: Personal interviewPat Harrelson

Updated: Noel T. Manning II, Aug. 2022

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