Camille Talburt was a music major in college. Ann Squyres doesn’t have a music background, but both women are passionate about the Russellville Symphony Guild, which started 25 years ago.
Talburt helped form the guild, one of only three in Arkansas, and served as the first board president in 1989. Squyres became the current president in June.
“I was not a music person,” said Squyres, a native of Louisiana. “I was just invited to join the guild. I’m very interested in the community, even though I’m not from here — interested in the community and certainly in the kids.”
Squyres retired after 25 years as a language-arts teacher at Russellville Middle School and joined the guild four years ago.
“One of our main focuses is to bring awareness of music and music appreciation to the community and also to the children in our school system,” Squyres said.
Talburt, who grew up in Fayetteville, majored in music at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She said the guild has evolved since she helped start it 25 years ago.
She credited Jeanette Burgess, Judy Taylor and Elizabeth Stinnett as being integral to the guild’s formation, too.
“We raise money for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and that was our sole mission when we started,” Talburt said.
“Since then, the fundraising has grown, and the contributions from businesses and corporations and individuals have grown to the point that they now give scholarships to music majors, and they help bring the orchestra here,” she said. “In my day, we didn’t have enough money; … now we support that.”
The ASO gives a concert each year in Russellville and will perform in April 2015 at Arkansas Tech University, Squyres said.
“We have a good relationship with Tech — they let us use Witherspoon Auditorium, and the [college] students get in free to that,” she said.
Talburt said both the public school district and the university have excellent music programs.
An ASO quartet also visits the city’s elementary schools several times a year.
“They show the kids the instruments they’re playing and let the kids come up and try them, so they get hands-on experience,” Squyres said.
“Research has shown students who are exposed to music do better in school,” she said.
Squyres said she is excited about an addition to the programming.
“This year, for the first time, ASO, the whole orchestra, will come and do a children’s concert on Feb. 5,” she said.
It’s an expensive project, Squyres said, and in addition to being partially funded by a grant, the concert, which will take place at the Center for the Performing Arts, will be paid for by the guild and the Russellville School District.
The Russellville Symphony Guild’s major fundraiser is Savor the Symphony, which will be held Feb. 7 at the Lake Point Conference Center in London.
“It’s a very lovely sit-down dinner,” Squyres said. “We have silent auctions, sign-up parties — this year we’re going to feature local artists with a musical theme,” she said.
In addition to making a contribution to ASO and bringing the symphony to Russellville for a concert, Squyres said the guild gives three scholarships.
Two $500 Claire Young Memorial scholarships are presented to seniors at Russellville High School who plan to major in music at Arkansas Tech University. Another $500 Christina Stinnett Music Scholarship is given with the same criteria.
Squyres said the guild’s 20-member board is “a working board.” The Russellville Symphony Guild has 150 members, and people may join “for a nominal fee.” A membership brunch is held each year in May, but people may join throughout the year, she said.
“Three or four of us got it started, but the new group really has taken over the torch,” Talburt said, after having served on the board for about a decade.
“We were kind of concerned when our terms expired that it would continue, but it has continued, and it’s grown and done well, and there are just a wonderful group of officers,” Talburt said.
Squyres said the board’s main goal “is to continue to foster this awareness and appreciation of music in the community and [for] children in the schools, because we are a community where’s there’s not a tremendous amount of cultural experience. This provides cultural experience through a fabulous orchestra.
“We’re fortunate in Arkansas to have such a world-class symphony orchestra. Philip Mann is an outstanding conductor,” Squyres said.
Talburt said one thing hasn’t changed in 25 years.
“There’s just a lot of support and interest in quality music,” she said.
For more information on joining the guild, contact Judy Murphy, treasurer of the board, at (479) 967-1177.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.