Andrew Dys

Lack of money ended lessons for Rock Hill boy; a late Winthrop prof saved the music

Kyle Smith, 12, wanted to keep taking music lessons. But tuition went up, and his father lost his job, so there wasn’t enough money.

A foundation honoring late Winthrop professor and musician Cynthia Furr, who died in a car crash eight years ago, stepped in to save the music.

Better yet, it was a surprise.

“I just really want to study music, and this will help me,” Kyle said.

Kyle applied last year to the Cindy Mackie Foundation. The foundation awarded Kyle a $900 grant as part of more than $15,000 in scholarships to groups and individuals. The nonprofit raises and gives out money to those studying and teaching music, the arts and literature - Cynthia Furr’s passions.

Furr, her daughter Mackie, and a teen from Clover died in a 2009 crash that police said involved two drivers speeding more than 90 mph on N.C. 49 near Lake Wylie. The two other drivers later went to prison for the crash.

Furr’s sister, Sharon, started the foundation to keep Cynthia’s legacy alive. Cynthia taught English at Winthrop, but also was a high school teacher and a musician, whose zest for life was legendary.

“Cindy will always live through young people like Kyle,” Sharon Furr said. “She was a dreamer, and young Kyle is a dreamer. They dare to be different and great.”

In his application Kyle wrote: “I am not sure yet what God has for me to do in life, but I want to prepare myself as well as I can, and music is very special to me.”

Kyle’s brother, Ryan, and parents Judi and Wyn, kept the surprise grant from Kyle. They were thrilled to be part of the delivery at the York County Library in Rock Hill.

Furr and others with the foundation handed out the awards Friday at schools in both Carolinas.

In the past seven years, the foundation has awarded more than $115,000, including tens of thousands of dollars to the Chester Academy for Teaching and Learning, where the library is named for Cynthia Furr. A special scholarship this year went to arts grants for children in Chester, Cynthia Furr’s hometown.

“Cindy believed every child had something inside them waiting to spring out,” Sharon Furr said.

Nobody knows that better than Kyle Smith, who will resume his drum lessons.

“I can’t wait to go to my next lesson,” Kyle said.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065,

Want to know more?

Visit the foundation’s Web site at