Music to ears at LMC

Henderson is an inspiration

“I think people, they don’t express themselves in ways that show love and care for people. And so, I always tell people I love them, always tell people I care for them. That’s really who I am,” said Silvester Henderson, a music professor at Los Medanos College, known for his perpetually jovial attitude and caring nature.

Although Henderson grew up in Oakland, his parents were both from the South and raised him with southern ideals.

“That’s just part of my upbringing. I grew up in a real poor but yet very cordial family as it relates to social manners. So I’m real formal and I try to be a socially manageable person. I just think those are good southern ideas,” said Henderson about his decision to tell almost everyone he comes in contact with to “have a blessed day.”

In addition to his passion for music, Henderson is active in many other areas, both at LMC and in his personal life.

“I have a lot of different positions. So currently, I work as the Academic Senate president for this college. I was just reelected, and then I work as the president-slash-Chair for the Faculty Senate Coordinating Council. I work as a tenure professor of choral and vocal music. And I own a real estate company,” said Henderson, who began working at LMC in 1993.

Henderson graduated San Francisco State University in 1981, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music and music education with an emphasis in choral conducting and classical piano performance. In 1984 he received a master of arts degree from SF State and then went on to teach there as a part time professor at the ripe age of 24. For the next 20 years, Henderson also worked as a professor at University of California, Berkeley.

“I’ve had a lot of success everywhere that I’ve been. I served as the director of music at one of the largest African American churches in the whole state, the Palma Ceia Baptist Church, since 1981,” said Henderson.

Henderson got married at the age of 22. His wife, Cecile, is also heavily impacted by music–as are their three daughters.

“Their mother was their music teacher in elementary school and in high school,” said Henderson with a reminiscent laugh. “So, every place they went they were in their mother’s music program. They would be in their mother’s music program and then they would attend all of my large community events. They did that all their life for, like, twenty years.”

Following in their parents’ footsteps, Henderson’s three daughters Carlena, Celisse and Charde all share an interest in music and are extremely independent.

“So the oldest daughter is in music and fitness. The middle daughter is totally into music. The youngest one is in music and writing,” said Henderson about his girls, who he gushed about, like any parent would.

Henderson and his wife, who have been married for 33 years, raised their daughters in a similar manner to how he was raised. He shared a list of ‘philosophies’ that he would tell his daughters every day.

“These are my philosophies. Serve the Lord, get an education, get married, always keep your house clean and always dress nice,” said Henderson with a hearty, reflective laugh. “I used to line them up as children and say ‘ok what do you have to say?’ And they had to say the same thing. And we did this every single day. It was kind of like, I wanted to instill that as values because I believe in a higher faith.”

Being a high achiever, Henderson says, is a product of his upbringing.

“Some children fight against tradition, I was never one of those kids. I learned to take the best from my parents and love them with all of their struggles and embrace what I could learn from them and use that as a basis for moving through life. In fact, at my mother’s funeral we talked about the fact that my mother was a very, very go-getter like person. Meaning, she didn’t take no for an answer. So, when she wanted to get something done, she just got it done whether there was a whole city of people against it, it didn’t matter. If she wanted to do something, she eventually found a way to get it done.”

Henderson takes inspiration from everything he does and experiences in life and uses it to better himself.

“I am a very grateful person and I look at life as an opportunity. As I’ve aged I’ve realized that challenges are your greatest friends. Obstacles are your greatest friends and I’ve had thousands of them. Look at an obstacle as the beginning of a new chapter of your life. That to me would be my message. Use obstacles and disappointments as a way of redirecting your passion for whatever you want to do,” said Henderson.