‘HOOSIERS WE’VE LOST’: Well-known Nashville musician lost to the pandemic

Editor’s note: This is one of a continuing online series of profiles of the more than 12,000 Hoosiers who have died from COVID-19. The stories are from 12 Indiana newspapers, including The Republic, who collaborated to create the collection to highlight the tremendous loss that the pandemic has created. The series appears daily at therepublic.com.

Name: Mel Chance

City/Town: Nashville

Age: 89

Died: Nov. 21

Days before his 90th birthday, Milton “Mel” Chance passed away from complications due to COVID-19.

Chance was a well-known musician in Brown County who loved sharing his music and teaching it to others.

He played in the worship band at church and did spotlight gigs in Nashville. He also played in three local bands: Nostalgia, the Brown County Community Band and the Mizfits. Chance also had his own band, called the Noteables.

When he wasn’t playing music, he was teaching private music lessons to children and adults. He was also a mentor to children at local schools.

“I live, eat and breathe music,” he said in 2016.

That year, he received the Lifetime Achievement award from the Brown County Playhouse.

Chance began playing the piano when he was 5 years old, but he hated every minute of it. “My mom knew how to play piano and sat there on the end of the stool making me practice,” he said.

It wasn’t until his parents — who met in a church orchestra — took Chance to see Benny Goodman at the Lyric Theater in downtown Indianapolis that he really became interested in music.

Not long after the concert, Chance’s school began offering a music program that allowed students to rent instruments.

The clarinet was his favorite, but he played all single-reed instruments.

Chance played the sax and clarinet all four years of high school and also sang in a boys’ octet.

About two years after he graduated from high school, Chance joined the Navy and performed in the Navy Band during the Korean War.

After returning from service, he began working for Indiana Bell Telephone Company, from which he retired after 27 years.

During his time with Indiana Bell, he also performed with Mel Chance and the Bel Tones. He also would teach 25 students on Friday evenings and all day Saturdays at Bob Carter’s music store. Carter was also known as Sammy Terry, late-night horror movie TV host.

After retiring, Chance repaired clarinets at Musicians’ Repair and Sales in downtown Indianapolis.

“He will be remembered most for his love of music, his ability to encourage youth and his unyielding faith in God,” his obituary read.

His wife Virginia “Jenny” survives him, along with four children and 10 grandchildren.

— Contributed by the Brown County Democrat