Chapel Hill Music Teacher Honored at Memorial Concert

By Danny Hooley Posted January 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm

CHAPEL HILL – A free concert to honor the late music teacher Pearl Seymour will take place at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, at The Robert and Pearl Seymour Center in Chapel Hill.

“This concert is a showcase for what the music teachers did,” says Nerys Levy, one of two organizers that talked to WCHL’s Aaron Keck recently.

“But it also is the legacy of Pearl Seymour and people like Florence Peacock, who pioneered this organization to produce the sort of students we have today.”

That organization is the Chapel Hill Music Teachers Association, which is co-hosting the Pearl Seymour Celebration Concert, along with Friends of the Seymour Center.

Pearl Francis Seymour died in 2011 at the age of 84. She and her husband, the Rev. Robert Edward Seymour, Jr., moved to Chapel Hill in 1959.

Pearl was an active member of the community. She was president of the Chapel Hill Service League. She played organ at Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church for 30 years.

And she taught piano students in her home.

“Pearl Seymour was a very important music teacher,” says Levy. “She was an organist, but she was also pivotal in the lives of so many musicians in Chapel Hill.”

Laurel Siviglias is the current president of the Chapel Hill Music Teachers Association. This past November, the Association held a recital in which two teenage musicians were chosen to perform at the Seymour tribute.

One of the musicians is 16-year-old East Chapel High School student Amilia Yun, who studies piano with Chapel Hill music teacher Akiko Yamazaki.

“She studied the piano for 11 years,” says Siviglias. “She plays soccer. And she also is a member of The Duke University String School and Youth Symphony – and, the East Chapel Hill High School Chamber and Strings Group.”

Siviglias says she admires Amilia for taking on Chopin’s Nocturne Opus Posthumous in C# minor for this concert. That would be a daunting challenge for a professional musician.

“And when you’re only 16 years old,” says Siviglias, “it is a marvelous achievement.”

The Association’s other chosen performer is Julia Le, a 15-year-old pianist who also attends East Chapel Hill High. Julia is a student of piano teacher Marilyn Pinschmidt.

“She will be doing the E Major Chopin Opus 10, No. 3,” says Siviglias. “Also, an extremely challenging piece.”

Two big things are happening for Julia this year: The 11th-grader turns 16, and she’ll graduate high school.  Her early graduation is not surprising when you hear this story from Siviglias.

“Julia did something very interesting,” Siviglias says. “She saw that there was a contest online, and if you won this contest, you were given a Steinway piano.”

Julia won the refurbished piano after sending in a recording of herself playing Beethoven. She got more than 1,000 online votes.

Nerys Levy says that the work ethic, community outreach and scholastic excellence demonstrated by students like Amilia and Julia would make Pearl Seymour very proud.

“Pearl Seymour was also a supporter of diversity,” says Levy, “and the main aim of her life with Robert Seymour was inclusion.”

Siviglias says the Association has spoken with the Seymour Center about making the Seymour celebration a yearly event.

After the concert, there will be refreshments and a silent auction. Money raised by the auction, sponsorships and program ads will go to Friends of the SeymourCenter to support programs and services there.

More information about the concert, which is free and open to the public, can be found at http://southernneighbor.com/upcoming-event/the-pearl-seymour-celebration-concert/.

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