Michael S. Elyard

Pianist/Organist

 

 

My Background

 

   I was born and raised in Clarksburg, West Virginia. My musical training started in 1st grade when I began piano lessons.  My first teacher, Elizabeth Cavallero, was very encouraging and supportive, qualities I feel are important for a teacher.  Music was a source of enjoyment for me from early on, and I soon found myself performing in many different venues.

   Beginning in Junior High School (Central Jr. High), I was the choir accompanist both in school and in church. The choir director at school, Olga Hardman, was very supportive and gave me many opportunities to accompany the choir and gain valuable experience.  Once in High School (Washington Irving), I continued choir accompanying and also began organ lessons on our church's 3-manual Casavant pipe organ, the second-largest in the state. 

    During my sophomore year at WI High School, I began studying piano at West Virginia University with Dr. James Miltenberger.  He was to be my teacher for many years to come.  In 1976, my senior year of High School, I was selected from a statewide competition as the winner of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) High School Piano Soloist award.  That year, I was also selected to accompany the West Virginia All-State Chorus. It was during my senior year that I also decided to make music a career.  I was awarded a music scholarship to West Virginia University, where I could continue studying with Dr. Miltenberger.

   During my undergraduate studies at WVU, I became interested in jazz, and performed with the University Jazz Ensemble and the University Trombone Ensemble, as well as the jazz quartet “Jazz Unlimited”.  My studies concentrated on piano performance, so much of my time was spent accompanying and performing, including 2 solo piano recitals.

   Upon finishing my Bachelor of Music degree, I was offered a graduate assistantship to continue studying at West Virginia University.  In the fall of 1980, I began working on my Masters degree.  During graduate school, I performed a solo recital, 3 chamber recitals, and accompanied the University Choir.  In addition to accompanying vocalist and instrumentalists, I also taught class piano.

    I finished my Master of Music Degree in 1982, and began teaching private piano lessons in my hometown of Clarksburg, WV.  I had over 30 students from 6 years old to retirement age.  In the spring of 1984, I met my wife-to-be, Beth Lauber, in Morgantown.  We were engaged in October, and planned to marry in the summer of 1985, but moved the date up to February 1985 because of what happened next.

    In December 1984, I decided I wanted to see the world and perform with large ensembles again, so I auditioned (and was accepted) for the U.S. Air Force Band.  Beth and I were married in February 1985, and I left for Basic Training 10 days later.  What a change – from a single civilian to a married Air Force Airman in less than 2 weeks!  I spent the next 17 years at different Air Force Bands in Virginia, Alaska (where Spencer was born), Nebraska, and Germany. During that time, I arranged music and performed with concert bands, jazz ensembles, country/classic rock bands, protocol combos, and as a solo pianist.  I was fortunate to be able to perform in a variety of locations from Alaska and Hawaii to many interesting locations throughout Europe, including Sarajevo, Croatia, Slovakia, Turkey, Italy, Paris, and Germany.  Some of my travels may be seen at http://www.michaelelyard.com.

    After 17 years in the band, however, my hearing loss had reached the point where the doctors recommended I find a quieter job.  In 2001, I was accepted into the Air Force Paralegal career field, where I worked the last 3 years before retiring at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois in February 2005. 

   We decided to stay in Mascoutah, Illinois, while our son finished High School.  I started teaching private piano lessons again in St. Clair and Madison Counties, and substitute teaching in the St. Clair County school district.  I served as organist and pianist at First United Methodist Church of Lebanon IL for 4 years, and served as Music Director at Bethel United Methodist Church in Mascoutah.

   We returned to Clarksburg, West Virginia in the summer of 2008 when our son started Engineering School at West Virginia University (double major – Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering).  He recently graduated Magna Cum Laude, married, and is working near Washington DC as an Aerospace Engineer with the government.   

   I was active as the substitute organist/pianist at Central Methodist Church in Fairmont WV from 2008 - 2011, where the choir performed the Christmas Cantata Beth and I wrote in 2010, “Is He?”.  Since moving back to West Virginia, I also initiated a project with 30 fellow motorcyclists documenting over 800 West Virginia Historical Markers around the state.  This helped the WV Department of Archives and History in their efforts to identify which markers needed to be replaced or repaired.  This project, as well as other rides and numerous travelogues from our trips in Europe, is posted on my personal website www.MichaelElyard.com as well as my West Virginia motorcycle website www.RidingWV.com . 

   In November 2012, I started serving as the Organist/Pianist at Wesley United Methodist Church in downtown Morgantown WV.  It is truly a blessing to be a part of the musical worship at this dynamic church, and I am humbled by the immense musical talent found throughout the members.

   Beth and I came full circle in December 2013 - we bought a house in Morgantown and moved back to where we met 30 years ago.  We have spent the last year doing work to the house and yard, and try to find time to relax on our back porch watching the garden grow.

   Currently, I also accompany several music students for their lessons and recitals at the WVU Creative Arts Center, and work part-time as the photographer at Freedom Auto Group, a family business with 3 car dealerships.