In its 101-year history, the Rock Hill Music Club has paid to support the musical education of scores of local music students. But in that number, Christopher George is unique. Of all the students in all that time, he’s the only one the club’s members can remember who has later returned to play for one of its monthly meetings.
Most of the club’s members didn’t realize they had an alumnus in their midst when George played with the Horn Society of the Carolinas for their October meeting at Oakland Baptist Church.
“I didn’t even know during the concert. He told someone at the reception afterward,” said Hughlene Lucas, president of the Rock Hill Music Club.
George didn’t expect anyone at the club to remember him. It had been 20 years since he was awarded a small musical scholarship as a horn player at Northwestern High School. It wasn’t much, but it did give the young man some recognition after he had already made the decision to become a professional musician.
“It was really cool,” George said. “I was telling everyone there about it. It felt cool to come back and play for them again, as a way to say thank you.”
A Rock Hill native, George started playing piano in the second grade, taking classes from Winthrop University pianist Eugene Barban and playing with the Charlotte Children’s Choir. By the seventh grade, George had taken up the French horn as well, as as a 10th-grader he competed in an All-State piano festival.
He eventually landed at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, but it’s something that makes him a little self-conscious when running down his bio.
“Yeah, brag fest. That’s not me,” George said.
He taught piano for nine years in Cincinnati before he came back home. Now George continues to teach piano at his home in Rock Hill to supplement his income as a player in the Salisbury and Union Symphony Orchestras in North Carolina.
George is one of several recipients of the money the Rock Hill Music Club raises every year at its annual fundraiser. The club, which meets monthly for a reception and musical performance, distributes the money to Winthrop University to spent on selected outstanding music majors, with a particular emphasis on piano, vocal and wind orchestra.
The music directors at Northwestern, Rock Hill and South Pointe high schools also are given money from the club – funds that in recent years have been spent to send budding young musicians to band camp.
Like George’s performance last month, most of the students who benefit from the club’s sponsorship have remained anonymous.
“As a rule, we would give it to the director and he would choose who got it,” Lucas said. “It used to be they didn’t even give us the names of the winners until the IRS told us we had to know.”
This year’s spring fundraiser will be held April 11 at Grace Lutheran Church, 426 Oakland Ave. The event will combine music and a silent auction with a Hawaiian-style lunch and a fashion show from Talbots.
The ripples of last month’s concert will reach other music students as well. George said the Horn Society plans to use the fee it received from the Rock Hill Music Club to host a horn clinic next year at the Church at Charlotte.
“We held one last year to bring kids in for individual coaching sessions with a mix of amateur and professional horn players, and then have a giant mass horn choir,” George said.
In the process, George might pay forward some of the support he received as a youngster himself a couple decades earlier.