A local woman who has a passion for music has retired from giving music lessons, but will never retire from her love for music.
Mary Margaret Barlage has studied music all of her life, and has been teaching music lessons at her home, including piano, organ, guitar, vocal and accordion, for the past 60 years.
Last Tuesday marked Barlage’s last music lesson, after 60 years, and she said she felt it was time to retire.
“I have studied music all of my life,” Barlage said. “Music has always been easy to me. It’s a gift.”
Barlage got her music career off to an early start at the age of 8 when she began taking piano lessons in Nelsonville, the town where she grew up, and began teaching the piano at the age of 15.
“My piano teacher started sending me young students because she became overloaded,” Barlage said explaining her start in giving piano lessons.
Her teacher had encouraged Barlage to teach some of the other children, because music came easy to her.
“I could read notes as fast as words,” Barlage said.
She was raised by her grandparents after her mother died when she was a young girl.
“My grandma saw something in me,” Barlage said. “She found a piano for me and paid for lessons.”
She began playing for her church, “Church of the Nazarene,” when she was 9.
“They let me grow musically at the church,” Barlage said.
Throughout school, Barlage was involved in anything related to music and she especially loved being apart of the band — where she played the French horn, clarinet, flute and bass drum.
In 1961, Barlage moved to Wapakoneta after she married Ned Lusk.
“When I moved here, I put a little ad in the Merchandiser that I would be accepting piano students,” Barlage said.
The little advertisement resulted in Barlage averaging 40 music lesson appointments a week.
“This town has been marvelous to me and supported me,” Barlage said.
Barlage said she has taught all ages — from little ones up to adults.
All while teaching lessons, Barlage has been a minister of music at various area churches — including serving eight years at the Wapakoneta Nazarene Church, seven years at the Cridersville Church of the Nazarene, one year at the First Presbyterian Church in St. Marys, and as a fill-in at Salem United Methodist. She is currently at Botkins United Methodist Church and at the Uniopolis Methodist Church, where she plays the organ.
In the late 1990s, she took a break from being a minister of music to spend time with her husband, who was ill.
“I thought the best thing to do is to give him all my attention,” Barlage said of her husband, who died in 2003.
In 2003, Barlage started back up at the Botkins United Methodist Church and Uniopolis Methodist Church by playing the organ, and each Sunday she alternates her time between the two places of worship.
“The churches support me and are so appreciative,” Barlage said.
Playing the organ at the two churches was like therapy for Barlage, as she was going through a tough time, with her husband’s passing.
“The way I handled grief was to stay busy,” Barlage said, “and music is what keeps me busy.”
Even though Barlage is retired from giving music lessons, she is still going to play at the two churches, and also for funerals at Bayliff and Eley Funeral Home.
“I love the instruments, and even though I’m retiring, I will keep up with playing instruments,” Barlage said.
The thing she said she will miss the most about giving lessons is the people.
“I have so many students who are successful,” Barlage said. “It touches my heart I had a part in this.”
Barlage has taught music to students who have gone on to be scholarship recipients for music programs in college and students who have gone out to California to practice music. In addition, a few of her students are following in her footsteps by giving piano lessons, becoming ministers of music or becoming organ players at their churches.
While her students have moved on in their lives, they still keep in touch by sending her cards and letters around the holidays.
“It is so gratifying,” Barlage said, “that I helped them start their music career.”
Barlage said that her students have become like family to her, as they have been with her throughout life events, including the good and bad times.
“I’ll miss the students the most,” Barlage said. “I am very proud of them.”
Barlage has five children, and one daughter, Maria Barnhill, is the director of music her church, and another daughter, Amy Noykos, works with St. Augustine Church, in Minster, as the music director.
Barlage’s grandchildren are also having successful achievements in the musical field, as her granddaughter is currently majoring in music therapy and her grandson is writing and making music.
“The music keeps going on,” Barlage said. “The little thread of music goes on and on.”
Five years ago, Barlage got remarried. She married Alvin Barlage and they are planning a trip to Florida after her retirement. Barlage is excited about what is to come next in life.
“It’s been a good life,” Barlage said. “It’s bittersweet, but I’m excited to see what’s next.”