As a child, Charles Moman breezed through every page of his family’s set of encyclopedias, from A to Z.
“Without realizing it, I was reading a lot of pithy, concise writing,” he said. “Because encyclopedia articles can’t be really long.”
It taught him a lesson that serves him well today as a songwriter for students’ classroom education, city celebrations and even states’ histories.
“Most songs are only two and a half to three minutes long, so I learned the importance of economy,” he said from his home in Seymour. “Some of the best Beatles’ songs are barely two minutes.”
The 61-year-old Moman, a semi-retired teacher after 37 years full time at schools in Seymour, writes educational musicals for state histories and historical tunes. His first musical, “Indiana, That’s Where I Belong,” first caught the attention of then-state Sen. Becky Skillman, R-Bedford, before he found himself at the Statehouse earning a standing ovation from lawmakers in 2001.
Since then, some 25,000 students in 300 schools have sung his songs about everything from Abraham Lincoln to George Rogers Clark.
Moman, a member of the Community Church of Columbus band, also writes original praise and worship music and released a disc of his own material, “God Has a Plan,” in 2004. All of his music is available at charlesmoman.com.
How did you get your start in music?
My family sang in church because my dad was a preacher. And then I started playing guitar with my (vocalist) twin sister, Charlene, in coffee shops. We did music from Peter, Paul and Mary and The Beatles.
What have you learned about songwriting through the years?
I always thought people were writing purely from inspiration. You know, “Oh, there’s a butterfly or a beautiful rainbow.” But I quickly found out that it’s kind of like woodworking. You can learn to sit down and basically write a song. And you can’t get any better if you don’t keep writing more.
What was the first song you wrote?
It was for my first set of (sixth-grade) students at the end of the school year in 1973. It was called, “Remember Me.” It wasn’t about all of them remembering Mr. Moman. It was from the perspective of them singing back to the school, “Remember me.” And I sang it and gave students a copy of the lyrics.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I think I’ve gotten some of my best ideas when I’m on the riding mower cutting my one acre of grass. And when I’m running, I purposely don’t wear headphones.
Have any of your songs flopped?
I wouldn’t say any of them flopped. But in the Madison musical “Rivertown,” there’s a song I wrote about the trolleys that they used to have there. Looking back now, if I were releasing the musical again, I probably would leave that one out.
I want to do a Kentucky state musical. Both sides of my family are from Kentucky. And I’m already working on a new, hourlong musical for the Indiana bicentennial in 2016. I may start doing some previews of that a year from now.