Roene Bigler DiFiore

“The Heart of Dixie Spirit”

 

Roene Bigler DiFiore, June 25, 1921 – May 19, 1990, affectionately known as “Mrs. D,” humanitarian, a lover of education and ambassador to the arts had a compelling idea to build students’ self-image through singing.  She believed everyone can sing.  She did not expect her students to read music.  There were no auditions and everyone was welcome.  The music of the Dixie State College Program Bureau, established in 1967, came from zest and spirit.  What did all this charisma do for her students?  Roene’s specialty was to capture the lonely freshman, the awkward sophomore, the left out misfit and mix them with the student leaders to create a unity of friendship.  She used piano, song, acting, and rhythm dance as tools to build confidence in her students.  She knew how to find those who needed her the most.  For many of her students she was the “frosting on the cake” of their education; for others she established a foundation for life, she “made all the difference.”  But, most important, everyone went away feeling much better about themselves.  And they now share this exuberance all over the world.   She once stated: “You have got to enjoy living every moment you are alive.  Have fun with the work you do and appreciate the people with whom you are working.  Everyone needs to be and feel important.”

The Lord gave her many gifts and talents.  She didn’t hide them, but she used them, shared them, and taught them.  Roene loved her life, she loved her natural affection for teaching, she loved her music, and she loved to share it.  “The reward, is seeing the development in the children I teach” she once said.

The legacy of this magnificent lady has now become a legend that has impacted and influenced thousands.  She was always there to help that square pegged individual desperately struggling to fit into the round hole of society.  A compelling desire to perpetuate “The Heart of Dixie Spirit” is entrusted to each of us by reason of association.  “Just for Now,” The Roene B. DiFiore Center for Arts and Education has been established for the development of artistic expression and to ensure that future generations may understand the values, experiences, and talents that our beloved “Mrs. D” generated for happiness and goodwill throughout the world.

 

The Why and When of Dixie’s Program Bureau

by Roene B. DiFiore (1975)

During the year between 1940-41 (when she was a Dixie College student) and 1964 – The interim period including marriage, living in Richfield and Payson, Roene DiFiore made annual treks to Dixie College at Homecoming time, D-Day, Graduation – whenever there was a need for the rendition of the traditional Dixie Songs. Somehow, as the school grew, familiarity with the old chestnuts began to fade. Songs such as “The Spirit of Old Dixie”, “Hail all Hail to thee’, (the official school song, but pitched uncomfortably high, unless transposed, a DiFiore specialty!) and her own composition “Just for Now”, (the Dixie “Whiffenpoof”, as a matter of fact!)

Anyway, Mrs. DiFiore had been imbued with that old “Dixie Spirit”, and was always responsive of the calls made of her. So, it evolved that she should become a permanent part of the Dixie College-For these purposes: 1. To re-new and perpetuate the Dixie songs (and spirit?). 2. Create a programming service. 3. Work with the yearly musical production. 4. Teach a few music fundamentals classes.

It was planned, that first Fall Quarter of 1967, to start the Program Bureau as an extracurricular activity, drafting the students into a pool of talent, once discovered. The first group consisted of seven students in a sight singing class, plus five others who were truly “drafted” into the group. For lack of a better name, they were called the “Dixie Dozen”, and immediately embarked upon a number of programs locally and in a few schools around the area.

By Winter Quarter, it was obvious that the students needed a regular, scheduled time to meet for rehearsals – so, class time was afforded with one credit hour offered. The number increased to some forty members. It was (and is) a loosely structured class, using the rote-method, mimeographed words, or blackboard, (never music!) and a sing out approach that encouraged harmony – when possible, enthusiasm always, and encouraged the individual to display his or her specialty, in song, dance, or on an instrument. It varies from year to year, quite naturally. Basically, the total group works out the same repertoire of numbers, and with the quarterly turn-over, a year may see in excess of 150 young people in class. By this time 8-year class rolls would tally more than a thousand. It is a strenuous program, depending on “osmosis” to bring the new-comers up to date each new quarter. But, we have found the Program Bureau to have enough returning students each fall that we can launch into program-orbit immediately. It is interesting to watch old timers as they return for Homecoming of DDay. They can come to class, and immediately fall into a familiar routine with the NOW P.B.er’s.

We can provide entertainment, admittedly free and easy, un-pretentious, but wholehearted and friendly, in groups of 2 or 3, 10 or 20, or up to and over 100 participants. In 8 years, P.B. has performed between 75-100 times annually, and never twice has exactly the same group comprised the program. But, always the standard songs were included: The Dixie Medley, including “Are You From Dixie?”, “Up With Higher Education”, “Big-D”, “School Days”, Fill the World with Love”, “Sunshine Medley”, “Small World Medley”, “This is a Great Country”, and “Let There be Peace on Earth”.

P.B. is a non-restrictions group-open to all who want to belong, the only requirements being regular class attendance, dependability and integrity to commitments, enthusiasm and willingness to try group wise. We are admittedly rather’ square”, by some pseudo-cool collage-age standard. But, I think we are also quite unique. Uniquely “Dixie”, perhaps.

Hopefully, the P.B. activity promotes friendship, loyalty to and identification with Dixie, and provides an activity of self-value and worth, fun and fellowship. Also, entertainment to those in the audiences!

Program Bureau does not wear special uniforms or costumes, hoping to present its members as individuals – (also, it’s less expensive).

There are several groups for whom we do programs, and we have done, for eight years now. That’s comforting in its long-range scope, because while we want to be minute-men when necessary, we don’t want to be the last minute-men entirely! We strive for spontaneity tho’.

These kids give generously of their time because they love the excitement of performance and an appreciative audience. There’s a fulfillment in doing something worthwhile, and besides that, they honestly like each other. There’s no caste system in the Program Bureau.

I sincerely hope they’ve proven to be a credit to Dixie College, because they are truly Dixie Spirits.