Gazette Sea Foam: Husband, wife team help elevate orchestra

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comDecember 5, 2011 

Thanks to Barbara Temple of Beaufort for sharing the special story of two members of the Beaufort Symphony Orchestra.

The orchestra will present its holiday concert, "December Musings" at 8 p.m. Dec. 15 and 3 p.m. Dec. 18 at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Performing Arts Center. Tickets may be purchased online at www.beaufortorchestra.org or by calling 877-548-3237.

"A TWO-FER"

By Barbara Temple

The Beaufort Symphony Orchestra has a "two-fer": husband and wife violinists who had parallel careers in several Pennsylvania orchestras before they met, married and moved to South Carolina and joined the orchestra. Meet the Wileys.

Pam Wiley was born in rural Minnesota and started playing the guitar in high school.

She also played the timpani and was chosen to be in the all-state orchestra. It wasn't until she went to college in Minnesota that she took up the violin.

John Wiley grew up in Portland, Ore., and started playing the violin at age 7. He started playing with the Portland Youth Philharmonic at age 14 (the youngest member of the orchestra) and at age 15, began singing professionally as a church soloist.

John attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J., and subsequently sang with the Westminster Choir under the direction of famous conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, Eric Leinsdorf and William Steinberg. He sang at the Lincoln Center in New York. He served in the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam era, singing with the Singing Sergeants and the Washington National Cathedral Choir.

After the service, he finished his degree at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania and later worked in its computer department. John subsequently married and had two daughters. During this time he played with several regional orchestras, including the York Symphony Orchestra as well as the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra and performed in all their musical theater productions (Broadway and opera) at the Fulton Opera House.

Meanwhile, Pam had married and was living in Harrisburg, Pa., where she was teaching violin and raising two daughters and a son. She was asked to join the Harrisburg Symphony and played with them for the next 28 years.

In 1999 Pam and John, now both single, finally met after having known many of the same musicians and playing with the same Pennsylvania orchestras over the previous 20 years. A violin maker, who was a mutual friend of Pam and John and had been trying to get them together for several months, introduced them. It wasn't until after meeting Pam that John realized it was Pam who he'd lost a gig to 15 years earlier because she played the fiddle and he didn't.

Pam's fiddle playing started in the 1970s when she was living in rural Pennsylvania. She would later meet Mark O'Connor at his Nashville Fiddle Camp. She now edits the books used for the New American School of String Playing by O'Connor, a method that uses classical techniques to teach American music.

For several years, Pam and John had been coming to the Lowcountry to visit Pam's daughter, who plays with the Charleston Symphony. In 2005, Pam moved to South Carolina and eight months later, John joined her here. They attended their first Beaufort Symphony concert in the spring of 2006 and joined the orchestra five months later. They were married between two concerts that same year.

Pam and John both teach violin, and several of John's students play with the Beaufort Youth Orchestra. John also plays with the Long Bay and Charleston symphony orchestras.

We are fortunate to have this multitalented couple as neighbors and members of the Beaufort Symphony Orchestra.

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