Staples of your Orchestra: Betty Settle

  • Friday, October 25, 2013

When Betty Settle retired she wanted to rehash an old passion of something she had not done since high school: play the violin. The problem was there was nowhere to play.

“I saw an ad in the newspaper for the Greater Summerville Music Forum at St. Paul’s. I went and said that I would like for there to be an orchestra in Summerville,” she said. “Everyone laughed at me and so I took it as a challenge.”

Settle teamed up with George Frink and the two met at Summerville Baptist Church along with 15-20 other interested musicians. Only two remain from that initial group: trumpet player Dean Glace and Settle. Glace also serves as the orchestra librarian and Settle handles a lot of the paperwork.

“My value to the orchestra isn’t my ability to play, I just love to play with them,” she said. “I’m more valuable as an organizer.”

Growing up in Arlington, Va., she began playing piano when she was five at the encouragement of her mother.

In fifth grade her friend Jewel Miller wanted to take the newly offered string lessons at the school and asked Settle to take them with her. Settle agreed and played the violin until she graduated high school. She moved on to Furman University that didn’t have an orchestra, ending her playing career.

“It wasn’t a big deal to me to leave my instrument at home and I never really thought about it. My four kids didn’t even know I played piano, much less violin.”

After years of not playing, she has enjoyed picking up the instrument again. Playing in the community orchestra, minus the rigors of playing professionally, brings out the best in some of the orchestra she said.

“A lot of these people have full-time jobs so they don’t have a lot of time to practice like a professional orchestra does,” she said. “They play for the pure joy of it, the pure joy of playing.”

Frink eventually tired of commuting from Charleston to Summerville and resigned. After three months they found a new director, Alex Agrest.

“We have a truly amazing director and he brings a Euro flavor to the orchestra and we play so many different things,” she said.

The orchestra moved practice from the church to Alston Middle School after they outgrew the music room. With the new renovations coming to the school, the orchestra is in need of a new place to perform. Settle said she would like the town to have a civic center that could be a home to the orchestra. For now she is happy simply playing the music.

“For about the first year I would come home so elated that I couldn’t sleep at night. I look at how far we’ve come and it amazes me. I’m so thankful my mother made me take piano.”

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