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For 3 decades, flutist has played with S Carolina orchestra

January 22, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — Betsy Johnson has had a passion for music her whole life.

Johnson, whose mother was a piano teacher, started on the piano when she was just 5 years old. It was in the sixth grade at Briggs Elementary School, however, when she found her true musical love: the flute.

“There was an instrument fair in the cafeteria,” she said. “They had all the different instruments set out with their cases, and you know, they were all shiny and attractive in their own way but the flute appealed to me.”

By the time she was 16, Johnson was playing the flute in the Florence Symphony Orchestra.

“I had taken private lessons from the professor at the University of South Carolina, and I had played a lot, not just in the high school band,” she said. “I really worked hard. . I was so lucky to be able to play as a high school player with that caliber of musicians.”

After graduating from high school, Johnson left Florence for years but came back in 1986. She has been the principal flutist with the Florence Symphony Orchestra since.

Johnson found another love for music when she took choir as an elective class while studying for her master’s degree at the University of Michigan.

“I discovered the beauty of singing with other people’s voices and the beauty of interpreting what the poet or what the composer intended for the text,” she said. “How music can make poetry come alive.”

Johnson went on to teach choir in public and private schools for 10 years, and she taught part time as a church choir director for 26 years. She has since stopped directing choirs but currently performs in the Central United Methodist Church choir.

In the 32 years that Johnson has been with the Florence Symphony Orchestra, she has been under the direction of multiple conductors, something she sees as a positive for the growth of the musicians.

“They have different choices of music, they have different ways to rehearse,” she said. “They have different ways to interpret music, they have different ways to challenge you and complement you.”

Johnson says that she has been making music for so long -- whether it is the flute, the piano or singing in a choir -- because the art form allows her to express herself more freely.

“Music expresses intangible things that I feel and I experience in personal and emotional ways in the different seasons of my life,” she said. “In ways that I can’t articulate myself . music is just kind of my language.”

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Information from: Morning News, http://www.scnow.com

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