Our February blog and radio show celebrates the extraordinary life and work of Robert C. Byrd “longest serving US Senator in the history of the United States,” historian, author, butcher, welder, lawyer, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and musician. Included are two articles on improving health through music and dancing. Our article of the month is “Building The Foundation of Success” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM

Radio Show Feature Question for February 2017: How did Classical Music play a part of Robert C. Byrd’s life as a Senator, historian, author, butcher, welder, lawyer, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and what musical instrument did he play?


In 2004, during an election year, my husband and I were traveling through Beckley, West Virginia, staying at the Country Inns and Suites Hotel having breakfast when Senator Robert Byrd came in smiling and greeting people campaigning for their votes.

On November 20, 1917 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Cornelius Calvin Sale, Jr. was born to Cornelius Calvin Sale, Sr. and Ada Mae Kirby Sale. Ada Mae Sale died from the influenza epidemic when he was 10 months old. He was the youngest of their 5 children.

Per “his mother’s wishes, his father dispersed their children among relatives. Calvin Jr. was adopted by his aunt and uncle, Titus and Vlurma Byrd, who changed his name to Robert Carlyle Byrd and raised him in the coal-mining region of southern West Virginia.”


Robert was raised in poverty in the coal-mining town of Stotesbury, West Virginia. Robert Byrd said, “ that the family’s house was “without electricity, … no running water, no telephone, a little wooden outhouse.” Robert as a child attended Sunday school at the Baptist Church in West Virginia. His Mom took in boarders to help make ends meet. “ The boarders .. were mountain people from Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky.” Robert grew up hearing music played for worship and entertainment. He was surrounded by music. There were many musicians in Stotesbury. Robert Byrd said, “Well, I just loved that music”.

Robert Byrd said he “ grew up surrounded by country tradition and mountain charm. Children played and sang along to the “hill music” of the town fiddlers, as the elders shucked corn, quilted, or raised cabins. The gatherings were vital to the close-knit relationships of residents in those small mountain towns. The mountain music that they played created “a warm community spirit.”


When Robert Byrd was 10 years old he “prevailed upon his father, to travel 10 miles up to Beckley to buy a violin for him.” The violin, bow, and case cost between $20 and $30 more than his father, Titus Byrd made in a week working as a minor. His father believed his son, Robert, “ would stick with the fiddle once he had it.”

Senator Byrd said, “Mrs. Cormandy taught me classical violin from 7th grade through 12th grade at Mark Twain School. I played first violin in the school orchestra”.

Byrd said in his autobiography “he held first chair in his section. His instructor once removed him from that spot. Determined to stay on top, Byrd practiced all that night and immediately earned back his place.” As a child he was hard working and ambitious.


Robert “played at local square dances on Saturday nights for fun.”


When Robert Byrd was 14 years old, during the “Depression years”, he entered and won “First place” in a Fiddling Contest in Beckley, West Virginia. Senator Byrd said, it was “one of my happier memories”. He won over many men who were already established fiddling champions.


Byrd said, “The Grand Ole Opry was our kind of Saturday night entertainment. I particularly recall it in the Depression years, ’33, ’34. I thought Arthur Smith was the best fiddler I ever heard.”


“Senator Byrd said “he never dreamed of playing on the Grand Ole Opry or making a record in those days.” He played for Grand Ole Opry in 1979.

Robert was an excellent student in school and graduated in 1937 from Mark Twain High School as Valedictorian of his class in Tams, West Virginia. Shortly after graduation, he married Erma Ora James his high school sweetheart. He did not have the money for college so during WWII he worked as a grocery clerk, gas station attendant, and “as a welder for cargo ships in Baltimore, Maryland, and Tampa, Florida.”


When Robert Byrd was 29 years in 1946. He worked “ as a butcher and ran on the Democratic ticket for West Virginia’s House of Delegates. During his campaign, Byrd carried his fiddle in his briefcase and played at each stop on his speaking tour.”


Robert Byrd: “That fiddle has opened many doors for me. A Republican lawyer told me when I filed for the House of Delegates in 1946 to take that fiddle. He said Bob, you take that fiddle and make that your briefcase. You go to any meeting you can get into. You get the ladies’ garden clubs or go to the fraternal organizations like the Odd Fellows, and you just take that fiddle with you. You play a tune or two, put the fiddle down and quote a piece of poetry and tell them what you stand for and sit down. And that’s what I did. And I led the ticket. That fiddle got me places where I couldn’t have gotten in at all.”

“I’ve gone into hostile groups that back in those coal-mining towns might have been a group made up of United Mining Workers, or it might have been the opposition in those days. It might have come from the State House crowd. I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I wanted to be a friend of everybody’s, so I took my fiddle around with me.”


“After his re-election to the House of Delegates in 1948, Byrd campaigned, and won, a spot on the State Senate. Two years later, he would win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Byrd was well read and continually studying. He “became known for his encyclopedic knowledge of parliamentary procedure, which allowed him to outmaneuvering Republicans with his mastery of the Senate’s arcane rules.”

In 1952 “after winning his seat in the House of Representatives for a second time”, he enrolled “in night courses for law school. He was still attending school in 1958, when he defeated the Republican incumbent, W. Chapman Rivercomb, for a spot in the U.S. Senate.”

Senator Robert Byrd graduated “in 1963, after 10 years of classes; cum laude with his Juris Doctor from American University. President Kennedy, the school’s commencement speaker, handed Byrd his diploma.”


Senator Robert Byrd Gives back to West Virginia:

* “After receiving his degree, Byrd started the Scholastic Recognition Award in 1969, which awards the valedictorian at each West Virginia public and private high school with a savings bond.

  • “Appointed a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee in 1960, Byrd became known for using his coveted position as a way to garner additional funds for poverty-stricken West Virginia.”
  • “Dedicated to West Virginia: Within two years, he surpassed his announced five-year goal of making sure more than $1 billion in federal funds was sent back to West Virginia, money used to build highways, bridges, buildings and other facilities.”


Robert Byrd While in the Senate:

  • “Senate majority whip in 1971, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate”. (Re-election)
  • “ Earning the title of Senate majority leader in 1977.”

* In the 1970’s “he appeared on the television show Hee Haw, played at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, and ..released his bluegrass album, Mountain Fiddler. These appearances helped to soften the serious demeanor for which Byrd gained a reputation during his time in Congress.”


* April 18, 1978, Senator Byrd played his “fiddle with a Panamanian orchestra on a senatorial trip to settle the controversy over the Panama Canal treaties.”

  • Recorded “his own album of fiddle music, Mountain Fiddler, in 1978. This same year, he appeared on the television program Hee Haw to play fiddle.”
  • “Became Senate minority leader in 1981, after the Republicans took control in the 1980 elections.”
  • “Returned to the role of majority leader in 1986.”
  • Byrd stepped aside as majority leader in 1989 when Democrats sought a more contemporary television spokesman.” Byrd said in his memoir, “Child of the Appalachian Coalfields.”, “I ran the Senate like a stern parent.”
  • Became “ chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee. “
  • “In 1993, Senator Byrd, wrote the award-winning series on Senate history, “The Senate of the Roman Republic Addresses on the History of Roman Constitutionalism.”
  • “His love of Senate traditions inspired him to write a four-volume history of the Senate. It also led him to oppose laptops on the Senate floor.”


* Byrd “completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political science, and in 1994 he graduated summa cum laude from Marshall University.”

* “In 2004, Byrd got Congress to require schools and colleges to teach about the Constitution every September 17, the day the document was adopted in 1787.”


* “On June 12, 2006, Byrd made history by became the longest serving U.S. Senator in the history of the United States. That November, he was elected to a ninth full term in the Senate.”

“His wife would not get to share in Byrd’s joy; Erma Byrd died March 25, 2006, after a protracted illness.” Robert and Erma Byrd were married for almost 69 years. Robert and Erma Byrd had two daughters, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Senator Byrd in 2007, at his 90th birthday party “ joined bluegrass band Lonesome Highway in singing a few tunes and topped off the night with a rendition of “Old Joe Clark.”


Senator Robert “Byrd became the longest serving member of Congress in history on November 18, 2009, having served more than 20,775 days.”

Senator Byrd said, “My only regret is that my beloved wife, companion and confidant, my dear Erma, is not here with me. I know that she is looking down from the heavens smiling at me and saying, ‘Congratulations my dear Robert—but don’t let it go to your head.'”

What others have said about Senator Byrd:

Vice President Joe Biden recalled Byrd’s standing in the rain with him as Biden buried his daughter when Biden had just been elected to the Senate. He called Byrd “a tough, compassionate, and outspoken leader and dedicated above all else to making life better for the people of the Mountain State.”

Senator Robert Byrd protected “the Constitution. He frequently pulled out a dog-eared copy of it from a pocket in one of his trademark three-piece suits. He also defended the Senate in its age-old rivalry with the executive branch, no matter which party held the White House.”


“The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Byrd “combined a devotion to the U.S. Constitution with a deep learning of history to defend the interests of his state and the traditions of the Senate. We will remember him for his fighter’s spirit, his abiding faith, and for the many times he recalled the Senate to its purposes.”

Senator Robert Byrd “went on to become, by all accounts, one of the hardest working senators in modern history. He went to law school at night, receiving his degree at age 45 from President Kennedy. He wrote a four-volume history of the Senate. He was the unequalled master of Senate rules, and climbed to the top of the ladder as 12 years as Democratic leader, Johnson reports.”


Senator Robert C. Byrd died at the age of 92 on June 28, 2010 in Merrifield, VA. Robert C. Byrd was a Senator, historian, author, butcher, welder, lawyer, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather and life long musician.

He was dedicated to helping others and “was the Senate’s longest-serving member. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1952 and the Senate in 1958. He has held more leadership positions than any other senator and has seen 11 presidents take office during his time in Congress.”


Senator Robert Byrd playing violin and singing:



“Building The Foundation of Success” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM

Do you remember a coach or teacher that believed in you and gave you words of praise when you needed it? Building confidence in others and in ourselves makes all the difference in the world to our success!

My greatest joy, as a teacher is to help my students discover their abilities and work towards their goals.

Many years ago, I received a call from a mother of a high school student. She said, “My husband’s employer recommended you as a violin teacher for my son. I would prefer a man to teach him, but will give you a try. My son is lazy and stupid.”

I replied, “Please do not talk that way about your son in front of him or to others.”

I agreed to teach this young man, provided that she would be encouraging to her son.

A young man with multi colored hair, an earring, and strange looking clothes walked in to his first violin lesson. His head was down, and he looked depressed.

We began working on scales, an etude, a solo piece, and the orchestra audition materials for the state orchestra auditions. He was a very talented young man and I told him so during our first lesson and all the lessons that followed. The honest sincere words that I spoke to him inspired and motivated him to do his best.

When it was time for the next lesson, a completely different young man walked eagerly up my walkway. He was neatly dressed, had his head up and wore a big smile. He took pride in his work and in himself. Each week I saw a transformation in him.

It was our fifth week of lessons, our final lesson before the state orchestra auditions. I told him how beautiful his playing was and what a good job he would do on the audition. Preparation makes all the difference! The honest sincere words that I spoke to him made him blossom like a flower.

He called me a few days after the audition and said with great pride, “I am the Concertmaster of the orchestra. There were over 40 people trying out and I won first place.” He said this with a smile on his face over the phone.

I told him how proud of him I was and that I knew he would win because of his hard work and determination.

His Mother called and said, “Even though you are a woman, you did a good job with him!”

I bit my tongue, but thanked her for the compliment.

This young man changed his attitude and worked hard because of the “honest sincere praise” I gave him at every lesson. He went on to college after he graduated at the top of his high school class.

Do you remember a teacher, coach, friend or family member who complimented you?

That compliment inspired and motivated you to work harder to do your best!

Have you ever mentored or coached someone and watched him or her succeed? How did you feel when they were successful?

I bet you felt proud and happy for their success and you walked a little taller that day!

Zig Ziglar, motivational expert and mentor in his book, ” See You at the Top” read the following story as a young salesman. It “made a lasting impression” on him. A young woman had sung since she was a young girl. She “made her musical debt in a church cantata. She had a beautiful voice and a great career was predicted for her. As she grew older,” she sang more concerts at local functions. Her family recognized her need for “professional voice training”.

Her family found a well-known singing teacher who told her every little thing she did wrong. As time passed the young women grew to admire her teacher and married him. Fewer and fewer concerts came her way as she had lost confidence in her gift of singing. Her teacher and husband had broken her confidence. When he passed away she was no longer singing at all.

Several years later she began to date a salesman and she would sometimes hum a tune while she was with him. He said, “Sing some more, Honey. You have the most beautiful voice in all the world”.

The salesman was not an expert, but he knew what he liked and gave her “honest sincere compliments.” She gained confidence from the salesman’s “honest appreciative words” and felt her joy of singing return to her. She was asked to sing in a few concerts. Once again with her confidence in hand, she resumed her career and married her salesman.

Zig Ziglar said, “She married the “good finder” and went on to a successful career. The salesman’s praise for her was totally honest, sincere, and much needed. In fact a sincere compliment is one of the most effective teaching and motivating methods in existence.”

Do you remember a teacher, coach, friend or family member who complimented you? Do you remember the compliment?

Coach John Wooden in his book, “Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success Playbook” tells the following story: “When I was a young boy, I was at a gravel pit with my father and a young man. They had a team of horses and were attempting to pull a load up a steep road. The young man driving the horses was loud and abusive. In response, the animals were agitated, worked against each other and couldn’t pull the load. With a gentle voice and gentler touch, my Dad calmed the horses and walked them forward with a load.”

Coach Wooden “learned two important lessons that day.”

1) “Gentleness is a better method of getting cooperation than harshness.”

2) “A team can accomplish much more when it works together than individuals can when they work alone.”

Like all living creatures, the horses needed kindness and gentleness and honest sincere appreciation to move the heavy load. Remember this when you are developing others and when you are working on your own self-development!

Zig Ziglar shared the following story about a “beggar selling pencils” in New York. A “businessman dropped a dollar into the cup” of the beggar and rushed to board “the subway train”. The businessman suddenly turned back, before entering the train, and went back to the beggar selling the pencils. He “took several pencils from the cup”. The businessman apologized and “explained that in his haste he had neglected to pick up his pencils and hoped the man wouldn’t be upset with him”. He said, “You are a businessman just like me. You have merchandise to sell and it’s fairly priced.” The businessman then went to catch “the next train”.

A salesman “neatly dressed” came to a social function and introduced himself to “the businessman”. The salesman said, “You probably don’t remember me and I don’t know your name, but I will never forget you. You are the man who gave me back my self-respect. I was a ‘beggar’ selling pencils until you came along and told me I was a businessman.”

Zig Ziglar said, ” The greatest good we can do for anyone is not to share our wealth with them, but rather to reveal their own wealth to them. It’s astonishing how much talent and ability rests inside a human being.” Help others to discover their abilities.

When you mentor or coach others and they become successful how do you feel?

Doesn’t it make you happy and proud that you helped them become successful?

What are 3 ways you can empower others and yourself to be successful? 1) Each morning begin with a positive attitude, smile, and start your day by saying positive motivational things to yourself.

2) Give an “honest sincere compliment” to inspire, motivate, and encourage someone else each day!

Be like the businessman who told the “beggar selling pencils”, “You are a businessman just like me. You have merchandise to sell and it’s fairly priced.” Encouraging words changed the way the beggar saw himself.

Zig Ziglar said, “A sincere compliment is one of the most effective teaching and motivating methods in existence.”

3) John Maxwell says, ” Make people development your priority.” Help others to discover their abilities and you will discover yours too! Building confidence in the student and the singer’s abilities made all the difference in the world to them. Their futures changed for the better.

Start today and do two things: 1) begin your day with a positive attitude, smile, and say positive motivational things to yourself. 2) Give an “honest sincere compliment” to inspire, motivate, and encourage someone else! © 2017 Madeline Frank

Contact Madeline Frank for your next speaking engagement at [email protected]

“Ballroom Dancing Workshop From The Parkinson’s Foundation in Boca Raton” (January 10, 2017) by Sherry Picker. “Dancing requires added skills which include hearing the music, remembering the steps and coordinating movement to the music, thereby not only enhancing physical acuity but also cognitive function at a higher level. Dancing reduces stress and depression while it Increases strength, balance, endurance and flexibility – all affected by Parkinson Disease.”

“Music Therapy on its own is a terrific modality that literally “lights up” all portions of the brain. With Ballroom Dancing the movement and the music are a terrific match of activities to enhance each person’s ability. And it is an activity so many older adults are very familiar with.”


“Celebrating Creativity Event Aims To Promote Mental Health” (Jan. 3, 2017) by Kevin O’Conner. “A Burlington, Vermont -based orchestra that promotes itself as the world’s only classical music organization created for instrumentalists with mental illness and those who support them. Music director Ronald Braunstein — onetime conductor of the San Francisco and Tokyo symphonies, Israel Sinfonietta and Oslo Philharmonic — founded the Vermont group after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.”


“The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is now available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook:


Barnes and Noble(Nook)



“Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child fractions and decimals, the fun way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award is now available in book form, newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook.


Barnes and Noble(Nook)


Tips on how to use “Musical Notes On Math”


Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World” . This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” is music to relax by and to move by for music therapy. ”Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” CD is now available for purchase by downloading a song, downloading the album, or by CD by clicking below:

Download Your Copy Today!

Amazon | iTunes | CD Baby

Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is available through amazon.com. To order your copy of “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget”  as an e-book on Kindle click on the following link:


Wishing you and your family a happy Valentine’s Day from Your Non-Invasive Medicine Music Expert, Madeline

For over 30 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award winning teacher, author, researcher, speaker and concert artist. She has found a scientific link between studying and/or listening to musical instruments and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2017 Madeline Frank.