MCC Alumni Feature: Edgar Struble, MCC music teachers inspired a career in entertainment.

April 1, 2022

MCC Alumni Feature: Edgar Struble, MCC music teachers inspired a career in entertainment.

Spartan News is presented by Mason County Central Schools in partnership with Mason County Press. This special series of Spartan News features alumni of MCC.  

By Sarah Jensen, Contributing Writer. 

  • Mason County Central Class of 1969
  • Undergraduate Degree: Music Education, Michigan State University, 1973
  • Career Highlights: Music director, Kenny Rogers Band; music director and composer, Academy of Country Music Awards and American Music Awards programs; producer of films Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure and God Bless the Broken Road

The sound of his mother teaching violin to local children in their home was as natural a part of Edgar Struble’s childhood as the Scottville Clown Band marching up State Street in the Harvest Festival parade or the strains of MCC’s fight song echoing from McPhail Field during a homecoming football game. 

Although he admits he had no affinity for violin himself, music has been the consistent thread through a career of directing and composing for series, specials, and movies for network and cable television. It was his passion for music that led him to direct and compose for the annual Academy of Country Music Awards and American Music Awards programs in association with Dick Clark Productions. He’s performed with such luminaries as Dolly Parton, Dottie West, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Leon Russell, and his holiday concerts in Mason County are an annual tradition. 

Edgar’s performance career began in the sixth grade when he picked up the trombone and joined MCC’s junior high band. “I had a great music upbringing,” he says. His band director that year was Gilbert Stansell I, who recognized Edgar’s talent and nurtured it. “He took me aside and taught me music theory, and when I was in eighth grade, he allowed me into the high school band. He was one of my champions. His wife Marguerite taught me my first piano lessons.” 

Not content to play only piano, Edgar became proficient on upright bass, guitar, percussion, and harmonica as well.

Throughout high school, he took his love of music beyond the school. He played in music combos with names as creative as their arrangements: The Nebolons, The 115th Dream, Isadore’s Grandmother, the Apricot Shoebox, and TJ and the TNTs, which played for the Free Soil junior prom. “We played all the little sock hops and at area venues including Johnny’s of Custer,” he explains. But his dreams for a career in music had faded with the departure of supportive music faculty at the high school, and by the time Edgar began to think about college, his career goals had shifted. “I wanted to be an automotive engineer,” he recalls. “I had been accepted by Michigan State in the college of engineering.” 

And then in Edgar’s senior year, MCC hired Randy Missamore, an energetic, fresh-out-of-college music director. “He rekindled the joy in my spirit for music as a vocation,” Edgar explains. “He soon had every jock in the school singing in The Music Man and the glee club. He set the music department and the arts department in that school on fire. He was a great sax player and a rock and roll organ player.  He was just an amazing guy.”

The high school had been built in the late 1950s and was still relatively new at the time, and Edgar remembers the importance of quality facilities. “We had a nice new band room,” he recalls, “and it was a joy to practice in that room. We had a choir and a glee club and a theatrical department and a band and a jazz band and a junior band.”

Under Missamore’s direction, Edgar was a member of the boys’ choir, continued to play in the school band, and was named Class Musician when he graduated.

His love for music rekindled, he majored in music education at MSU and in 1973 graduated qualified to direct school band and choir himself. But he chose a different path. “The day I graduated was the day I went on the road with this eight-piece rock and roll band, Chopper,” he says. His sites, though, were set on more than regional tours with a small-time band. “I’d always been told that I would be successful in the music business,” he says. “People in Mason County always embraced that and encouraged me.”   

If he were to enjoy a career at the national level, it was important to be where the action was, he realized, and Nashville seemed the logical choice. “I’d been to New York and didn’t like it that much. I didn’t know anyone in LA. But I had a friend, Mel Applegate, who’d had a Volkswagen dealership in Scottville, and I used to wash cars for him. He said I could stay with him in Nashville.”

Edgar had no trouble landing gigs playing piano in the Nashville bar scene. Among the musicians he befriended was a group who would become Kenny Rogers’ backing band. They eventually hired Edgar, too, and for the next 15 years, he toured the world with Rogers as conductor, arranger, instrumentalist, and vocalist. 

This spring, voters in the Mason County Central School District are being asked to decide on a $33 million bond proposal that includes much needed infrastructure updates at MCC High School, including renovating “B-Hall”, which is much of its original condition from when it was opened in 1959. The bond also includes the construction of a performing arts center/auditorium.
Edgar acknowledges the part hometown ties have played in his path to success. He says he understands the importance of quality facilities and cutting-edge technologies. Upgrades to MCC classrooms and the creation of a state-of-the-art performance space could give students the same empowering sense of joy he felt when the school’s practice rooms were new. 

Based on his firsthand exposure to so many facets of the entertainment industry, he understands too the challenges of maintaining a quality performance space. While an auditorium would enhance the student experience, he suggests it could also lead to employment opportunities. A dedicated manager and staff would be necessary to book acts to cover operating costs, oversee accounting, and maintain the infrastructure. 

“Talented people come out of MCC,” he says, “and quality facilities are important to that.” 

Edgar and wife Lauri live in Newhall, California. He spends part of his year at his home in Mason County and serves as artist in residence at West Shore Community College. In that role, he was responsible for constructing the college recording studio, and he instructs students in the use of studio equipment and joins in performances of the college jazz ensembles.

The couple have four adult daughters and a 13-year-old granddaughter. “I gave her my mother’s violin,” says Edgar. “It warms my heart to see her using that instrument.”

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