Bert Coble came to Lebanon in 1972, where he served as chairman of the music department and director of choral activities at Cumberland University, a position he held until 1988.
“We had hoped to come back to Lebanon when he got his master’s, but Cumberland wasn’t ready for him in 1971,” said Sue Coble. “If we had come to Cumberland in 1971, Bert would have probably had to work two, maybe three years recruiting enough students for him to build a viable program.”
The Cobles spent a year in Bristol, Virginia, where he worked as choir director for a high school.
“He and the athletic director had to work closely together to plan any activities, because a major part of the first-string football team was in the choir,” said Sue Coble.
In 1972, Bert Coble’s choir returned to Cumberland to put on a special event. While they were there, then president Ernesy Stockton Jr. approached the Cobles about coming to Cumberland to serve as chairman of the music department and director of choral activities, which Bert Coble accepted, with a few conditions.
“Bert said, ‘oh goodness Sue, get the paper and get the pencil. We’ve got to write down what we will have to have if we go to Cumberland,’” said Sue Coble. “There were about 10 or 12 things on the list. Everything he asked, Dr. Stockton said, ‘that will be fine.’ Now one of the things that was not on the list was salary. He never ever, asked about the salary. He was interested in whether it was going to be a situation where he could build a program.”
The Cobles came to Lebanon in 1972 with 12 of his music students from Virginia as a nucleus for the music program he hoped to build at the university. In the process of building a program, the couple started a Lebanon tradition still around today.
The school provided money for the choir to travel to performances, minus the food costs for the members of the choir. One of the students suggested to raise money, they do a dinner performance and charge per plate. This began a long line of dinner performances the Cobles put on, which culminated in what is now known as the Bert Coble Christmas Dinner Show, a yearly fundraiser and Lebanon tradition.
“If you don’t already, you should make it a Christmas tradition for you and your family to come see the Bert Coble Christmas Dinner Show,” said Sue Coble. “It’s absolutely wonderful, and we have new people who come every year.”
Last year was the first Bert Coble didn’t’ participate in the event as he died in March. He left a mark on Cumberland University and Lebanon that will not soon be forgotten.
“You would have had to know him for at least 15 to 20 years to realize that he was first cousin to the Energizer Bunny,” said Sue Coble. “He didn’t go at anything half power. If you used a scripture to describe him, it would be from Ecclesiastes where it says, ‘whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.’ Maybe it was the soldier in him, but he didn’t like to give up. Once he started, he wanted to win.”