Interactive: North Carolina Symphony Blog
After 33 years of operation at Meredith College, the Lamar Stringfield Music Camp finally opened its arms to the daughter of Lamar Stringfield, Meredith Stringfield Oates. Mrs. Oates was in town for the spectacular Gala celebrating the North Carolina Symphony’s 80th birthday and she graciously agreed to pay a visit to the summer camp’s opening meetings and rehearsals.
It is not as though she had refused to come previous to this summer. Or that an invitation had been withheld. In actuality, neither Camp nor guest knew of the other’s existence. It was not until my husband Jimmy began to talk with Mrs. Oates about her plans to attend the Gala, and she asked what we were doing this summer, that Jimmy mentioned my involvement with the Stringfield Camp. She was astonished to learn about this two-week day camp for 6 to 18 year-olds named for her father. It was founded by Phyllis Garriss, who still directs the camp along with her daughter, Margaret Garriss. Both of the Garrisses are on faculty at Meredith and have a glowing reputation among thousands of happy former and present campers.
Mrs. Oates enjoyed visiting the Mozart Orchestra classroom, where tiny children played their instruments, their legs too short to reach the floor. We also showed her to the middle and upper level orchestras, known as the Haydn and Beethoven Orchestras respectively. It was an emotional moment for all of us to witness the introduction of Mrs. Oates to the senior Mrs. Garriss, the unassuming and gracious teacher who quietly explained the meaning of Lamar Stringfield’s memory to the camp and to Meredith College. His father Oliver Larkin Stringfield was one of the founding figures and fundraisers for Meredith College (a dorm there is named for him). Lamar Stringfield himself represented Tarheel musical greatness to the camp founders and they wished to encourage the possibility of future connections to the North Carolina Symphony. As Mrs.Garriss finished speaking and gestured towards the children in rehearsal, Mrs. Oates was distinctly dewy-eyed.
The seeds planted many years ago have borne fruit through the years. Many of the NCS musicians have been associated with the Lamar Stringfield Camp as coaches for chamber music and sectional rehearsals and players for special concerts (including Eric McCracken, Rebekah Binford, Robert Anderson, Paul Goldsberry and others). Two of us actually attended the camp as youngsters: current first violinist Maria Evola and recent hire, first violinist Analise Kukelhan. Speaking of connections, I remember organizing a master class at the camp by Concertmaster Brian Reagin some 13 years ago in which a 12-year-old Analise performed. Afterwards, Brian said to me, “I wish there were more like that one!”
How fitting it is that members of the Symphony have been an integral part of the Stringfield Camp; music education is an essential part of our mission. But our involvement has occurred without any particular fanfare. Perhaps we musicians love our craft so dearly we just naturally want to share it with young players.
If you want to see what’s so special about LSMC, plan to attend the Honors Chamber Music Concert on Thursday afternoon, June 21st at 2:30 P.M. (music by Borodin, Mozart, Schumann and Dohnanyi given by advanced string players) or the final concert given by all of the orchestras on Friday morning, June 22 at 9:00 A.M.
If you come, bring a hankie; you might find yourself overcome by the beauty of young musicians playing their hearts out. Don’t worry, you’ll be in good company and you won’t have to wait 33 years to enjoy the experience!
Elizabeth Beilman, recently named Co-Director of the Lamar Stringfield Music Camp, founded the Honors Chamber Music Division of the Lamar Stringfield Camp in 1998.