4/18/2008 - Long-time Judson music teacher sees music as a "vehicle for touching lives"
By Michael J. Brooks
"I find it rewarding to take 'rough diamonds' and make them sparkle!" said Dr. Betty Campbell as she summarized her 33 years teaching music at Judson College.
Campbell believes she must help students perform at their greatest capacity, but that music is also a medium for helping students develop healthy self-esteem.
"I give my students as much time as they need in preparation for their performances," she said," and I love to see them feeling good about their work.
"I call it 'finding their niche,'" she said. "Some students have gone into church music, some into public school music instruction and some into opera and the concert stage. But, there are also those who are mothers and homemakers who use their musical gifts in the church and community. Music helped them all find their place in God's order of things."
And she gets a few pleasant surprises from time-to-time. Recently a former student whom Campbell had not heard from in several years called to say she was in Nashville working on a gospel music recording. And the Judson College Alumnae Executive Committee recently voted to name her an honorary Judson alumna, joining the ranks of a select group of honorees including former Judson teacher and administrator Twynette Yeager and former Judson first lady Kittie McCrummen.
Campbell grew up as Betty Smith in Laurel, Miss.—the daughter of a Southern Baptist minister. After high school, she earned degrees from Louisiana State University, Northwestern University and Columbia University.
It was at LSU that she discovered voice as her major focus in teaching.
"I had three elective hours to use as a senior," she said, "so I took voice. I was a piano major, but I loved vocal music! I got my doctorate in higher education with a concentration in vocal performance."
She and her husband, Bracey, moved to Marion in 1976 to teach music and work with the college choir. Dr. Bracey Campbell directed “The Judson Singers” until his death in 1989, and then Dr. Betty Campbell took the helm.
Campbell gave up directorship of “The Judson Singers” in 2000, but remains active teaching voice at the college and traveling with the choir whenever she can. She travels the world somewhat reluctantly, however, since she’s deathly fearful of flying.
“My doctor always gives me something to help me sleep,” she said, “so I get on the plane, go to sleep and wake up overseas ready to go!"
The Marion Presbyterian Church honored Campbell earlier this year for her 20 years of service as choir master and pianist.
“I play the piano and attend Sunday School at Siloam Baptist Church, then cross the street and worship at Marion Presbyterian,” she said. “Our community is so wonderful to share resources and the churches work together.”
She also continues to direct the Marion community’s presentation of “The Messiah” each Christmas, and has done so for more than 20 years.
Campbell said teaching at Judson has been very rewarding, and the administration's support for the music program has been welcomed.
"This helps make Judson a desirable place to work," she said.
Campbell said she hoped she's been a positive influence on the young women she's taught over the years.
"I think the life you live before the students is your best mentoring," she said.
Campbell, who celebrated her 80th birthday last year, said she'd like to continue to teach as long as she can do a good job.
"My work is my life," she said, "and being around young people has kept me young!"
Campbell says her pride and joy are her two grandchildren in Montgomery: Henry, age 9 and Elizabeth, age 7, whom she calls “the prince” and “the princess."
* Article courtesy of the Judson College Public Relations Department