Avery Beckham, Bassoon Student

“Music got me through a lot of things at home and school. Music can change moods and create moods. It fulfills me, and I want to make it my life. I want to be a band director and a performer—I want to do it all.”

Avery Beckham’s love for music goes back about as far as he can remember. He sang in the church choir and played tenor sax in middle school band. But it was the bassoon that brought him to UNC Greensboro through the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Community Music Lessons program.

“When I got to high school my band director asked me if I wanted to play the bassoon, and I said, ‘Sure, what is it?’ I had never seen one before, never heard of it. But I started playing it, and after two months, I made All-County Band, so that’s when it clicked that I might be kind of good at it.”

The Southwest High School Band Director, Joseph Cox (’09 Music Education), saw Beckham’s musical promise and acted on it. Cox had received a flyer sent to the school by Kassie Ormsby, a doctoral bassoon candidate who is also the coordinator of the Community Music Lessons program.

Ormsby says: “Avery’s band director called and said we have this student who wants to play the bassoon. He’s good, and we don’t know what to do with him to help him go further with this. So, I started teaching him— at first it was a few Zoom lessons for which the high school was able to pay. Eventually he began taking regular lessons through our Community Music Lessons program.”

Community Music Lessons offers private, affordable lessons for all ages taught by School of Music students. In addition to allowing access for Greensboro community members to experience the joy and accomplishment of gaining artistic and technical skills in music, it provides essential one-on-one, professional teaching experience for students.

Ormsby says the Community Music Lessons program is a valuable professional development experience:

“The student teachers are getting that hands-on experience, and it is something that they can add to their resume. It’s also a way to make sure this is what they want to do. Music Education was my undergraduate degree, and I knew people who got all the way to their last semester when they would go into the public schools for their student teaching, and they’d never worked with children or teenagers before and realized that this really wasn’t the path for them. Our student teachers also get a chance to earn some money as teachers in a safe location—our Music Building—with guidance.”

Ormsby continued to teach Beckham through high school and was thrilled when she learned of his decision about college:

Kassie Ormsby teaching Avery Beckham on bassoon
Kassie Ormsby teaching Avery Beckham on bassoon

“I was here for his audition, and he played so well. I was so excited when he got accepted into the UNCG School of Music. He is so incredibly bright and always questioning, and when I’m not working with him, he listens to YouTube videos, finding bassoon music he likes. He was so easy to teach, and I could tell he wanted this. I’m so glad the program gave him the opportunity to go so far with it:

“He is in a great school. Dr. Michael Burns is a great bassoon professor, and Avery is going to be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about music as he is.”

Beckham agrees that he has found his place at UNCG:

“I’m really excited about being challenged. I think I will thrive in an environment where everyone is equally motivated, and the music and curriculum are challenging. I love concertos. Bassoon concertos are so technical and fun. I would like to explore opportunities with the UNCG Symphony and the different ensembles, maybe play some jazz, too. And I’m so excited to find out that UNCG has a Rugby Club. I love rugby. I’ve played for years and really want to get involved with that, too.”

Learn more about Community Music Lessons and CVPA’s Community Engagement here.If you would like to support programs like Community Music Lessons, contact David Huskins, Development Officer for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, at [email protected] or 336-256-0166.

Story by Terri W. Relos

Photo credit: Sean Norona, University Communications