KINGSPORT, Tenn. -- When Symphony of the Mountains (SOTM) performed music of Mussorgsky, Tan Dun and Dvorak on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009, more than great music was celebrated. SOTM Music Director/Conductor Cornelia Kodkani-Laemmli, Executive Director M. Zane Myers, and Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips were present to honor Celia Smith Bachelder, a charter member of the orchestra.
Bachelder, a violinist who joined the then Kingsport Civic Symphony Orchestra as a young teenager in 1946, played in the symphony for 62 years before retiring this season.
She began violin lessons as a young girl, first studying with her mother. As her love for music developed over the years, she joined the newly-established Kingsport Civic Symphony Orchestra in 1946 and continued playing in that ensemble, now known as Symphony of the Mountains, through last season.
She founded and led the Dobyns-Bennett High School Orchestra in 1975, a position she held for 20 years. During her tenure at Dobyns-Bennett, the orchestra grew in numbers and in statewide and national recognition. The group competed at a variety of festivals, always winning top rankings for their performances, including appearances at the Mid-West Band and Orchestra Convention, a prestigious annual festival held in Chicago.
She was also instrumental in introducing Suzuki string training to Kingsport -- an organization now known as Suzuki Talent Education of Appalachia (STEA). Many of the STEA students joined the Sevier and Robinson Middle School Orchestras and Dobyns-Bennett High School Orchestra as they continued their music education. The Suzuki method of teaching is known as the mother-tongue approach to learning founded by Shinichi Suzuki, a violinist, educator, philosopher and humanitarian who devoted his life to the development of the method he calls Talent Education.
Bachelder taught and nurtured hundreds of students during her tenure at Robinson Middle School and Dobyns-Bennett High School. Many of those students have continued their love of music performing with the Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra and the Symphony of the Mountains, among others. Several have followed Bachelder's love of music performance and education and made it their own career.
Symphony of the Mountains Assistant Concertmaster Dr. Kellie Dubel Brown, now Chair of the Music Department at Milligan College and Director of Orchestras, was one of Mrs. Bachelder's students. "Celia Bachelder was one of my most important mentors, both while I was a high school student, and then later as a teacher. She inspired a whole generation of string players in Kingsport," stated Dr. Brown.
Bachelder also mentored former Symphony of the Mountains violist Tammie Davis, who served as orchestra director at John Sevier Middle School before leaving to serve as principal of Abraham Lincoln Elementary School.
In honor of her tireless dedication to the Symphony of the Mountains and her invaluable contributions to music education, Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips issued a proclamation stating that Jan. 25 will be known as "Celia Bachelder Day."
SOTM Executive Director Zane Myers announced that, in her honor, SOTM's annual Youth Orchestra Concert for Young People performed for more than 1,700 third, fourth and fifth grade students from the region will be known in perpetuity as the "Celia Smith Bachelder Youth for Youth Concert." In his presentation Myers said, "It is important that Symphony of the Mountains establish Celia's legacy. Her love for this orchestra, her students and the City of Kingsport has left an indelible impression on the lives of thousands and has shaped the very cultural fabric of this region."