Foothills Music Club honors founder Lesley Oakes August 13

Published 4:29 pm Friday, July 28, 2017

New Jersey transplant, Lesley Oakes of Columbus, N.C. is one of the few charter members remaining in the Foothills Music Club, which began back in 1988. 

It was during the early 1980s that Lesley along with other local people was invited by Alia Lawson, the pre-college music chairperson at Converse College, to join a music club in Spartanburg .

It wasn’t long before the local musicians decided they would benefit from having their own club, so invitations went out. Twenty-eight women attended the organizational meeting held in March, 1988 at the home of Lesley Oakes, though the club is open to men as well.

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From the beginning the concept was to encourage members to perform and to continue their musical education whenever possible, and in 1994 a scholarship program to help promising young local musicians was added. 

Lesley Oakes, the founder and now honoree of the Foothills Music Club

Five other members of the original club besides Lesley Oakes are still around: Carole Bartol (Blackburn then), Pam McNeil (formerly Thompson), Mimi Traxler (was Child), Lois Ell and Kathleen Erwin.

The Erwins played a special role in the Oakes’ move to North Carolina. Lesley and her husband Mervyn were both flutists, and while Lesley studied at the Juilliard School in New York, her husband had received his Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music.  While living in New Jersey, both were good friends of Kathleen Erwin, violinist, and her husband Joseph, pianist and organist. 

After the Erwins moved to North Carolina in 1976, the Oakes followed soon after. 

As a professional musician, Lesley played flute in Phil Spitalny’s famous “All Girl Orchestra” that was a hit on the radio during the 1930s and 40s.

Since 2012, the first-place scholarship awarded each year by the Foothills Music Club has been named the Lesley Oakes Scholarship, and the program this August 13 will be presented in honor of Lesley Oakes as well.

The concert to be held at 4 p.m. at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE), features young musicians who have been beneficiaries of the FMC Scholarship Program (James Riedy, bass-baritone, Kate Riedy, soprano, Gabe Turner, pianist, and Alex Harrelson, tenor).

The program is a continuation of the club’s long-standing efforts to support talented young people by helping them with their musical training. Proceeds from the concert will be added to the Foothills Music Club Young Musicians Scholarship Program. 

Tickets for the August 13 benefit concert at FENCE are available from club members or at the Book Shelf in Tryon. The Foothills Music Club was incorporated in 2012 and recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2013.

– article submitted by Dick Bayley