DOBSON — Several changes made to the third annual Surry Old Time Music Camp held at Surry Community College last week improved the experience for participants, according to camp organizers.
The camp wound up its week of instruction with a concert in the gymnasium of Surry Community College, where parents, friends and relatives of the campers could hear the progress musicians made during the week. Sitting in the front row tapping her toes was Betty Wright, whose endowment, the Wright Traditional Music Fund, is a sponsor of the camp.
Pushing back the week of the camp enabled instructors to participate who had previously been unable to do so, according to Caroline Beverley, who has been with the camp from the beginning.
“This week is a really perfect fit,” said Beverley. “It’s right before the Galax Fiddler’s Convention, so students can work on their competition pieces if they want.”
“We doubled the number of students this year, and added adults for the first time,” said Sonnie Hardy, camp coordinator. “We felt adults would want to take advantage of these wonderful instructors. It’s really a very natural fit. That’s the way old-time music was handed down, from one generation to another. It feels right to have multiple generations learning together.”
Emily Spencer is one of the instructors who taught this year for the first time at the camp. She taught Level 2 Banjo.
“I teach at the Mountain Music School in Big Stone Gap,” said Spencer. “The schedule change made it possible for me to be here. It’s been a great week. I can’t say enough good things about the college.”
Instructors for the camp were Caroline Beverley, Steve Lewis, Ralph McGee, Mecca Lowe, Martha Spencer, Chester McMillian, Lucas Pasley, Lynn Worth and Emily Spencer. Sponsorship was also provided by Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation.
Though many of the camp participants are from the local area, some come from a good bit further afield.
Olive Whitney coordinated a summer trip from Allentown, Pennsylvania, to visit with her Surry County grandparents, Judy and Buck Buckner, to align with the week of the camp. This was Olive’s second year at the camp. She likes the music and doesn’t hear much like it in Pennsylvania.
“Chester (McMillian) is my favorite teacher,” said Olive. “He’s really good.”
“We’re going to double the size of the camp next year like we doubled it this year,” said Chester McMillian. “We’re going to start some scholarships. Helen White and I began talking about this 15 years ago. We’ve got to save the kids. They kill themselves on dope, but if we could teach them to play music, they won’t kill themselves.”
To drive home the power of the music, McMillian added, “I lost my wife this week. But I got around the kids, and I don’t think about it.
“This thing at the college wouldn’t have happened except for Betty Wright. I played at the Rotary three or four years ago, and afterward, Ann Vaughan and Betty Wright said they wanted to do something to preserve the music. Without Betty’s support, we wouldn’t have this.”
Betty Wright said after the concert, “Isn’t this wonderful? You can certainly see the results. I am really pleased with it. All of the instructors are to be commended.”
.Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699