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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Anita Coulthard provides arts to community

Anita Coulthard is a performer and arts administrator.
Anita Coulthard is a performer and arts administrator.

By LESLIE GRACE| A! Magazine for the Arts | April 30, 2019

Anita Coulthard has made a career of providing opportunities for people to connect with the arts. A musician herself, she teaches and performs. She also organizes events to share the arts with her community.

Her personal musical connection began in the second grade when she began taking piano lessons and singing in her church choir.

“I lived across the street from my small Southern Baptist Church, and they welcomed me to come over after school to get acquainted with the instruments in the sanctuary. One was a pull stop Hammond electronic organ. By middle school, I had taught myself enough about the organ to begin to play for evening services. Eventually, I played for morning services and later directed the choirs,” she says.

After completing an undergraduate degree in music at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, her first elementary classroom job in music was in Virginia Beach for seven years. During summers and night school she did course work toward completing a masters in educational leadership from University of Virginia, with the plan to become a school principal.

Then her life took a different turn.

“I was about to be assigned to the principalship of an elementary school in Virginia Beach for the coming year, when we received the call that a 7-month-old girl was available for us to adopt. So I put my plans for being an elementary school principal on hold for the immediate future. Instead, I stayed at home with my daughter, and also adopted a son. I was a stay-at-home mother until our son was entering fifth grade.

“During those years of having a flexible schedule with the children, I became involved in the music of the church. Since then, there has not been a Sunday that I haven’t, except because of sickness, sat on an organ or piano bench or stood to direct a choir. Music of the church is the music love of my life,” she says.

Some of the churches where she has played or directed include Virginia Beach Community Chapel, Abingdon United Methodist Church, Emory United Methodist Church and Meadowview United Methodist Church. She has substituted at many other churches.

“When we moved to Emory, Virginia, in the early ‘70s there were no local openings for women administrators, so I was fortunate to become involved in the life of Emory & Henry College. Most of my time at the college has been to develop and manage an arts events series. In addition I have taught church music, organ and elementary classroom music skills,” Coulthard says.

She served as arts coordinator at Emory & Henry and singlehandedly booked, marketed, budgeted and administered the visual and performing arts events. Her significant contribution to the development of a plan for the now realized McGlothlin Center for the Arts was a crucial part of that enormous collaborative effort.

Coulthard, along with Virginia Highlands Community College, helped facilitate the creation of the Spencer-Miller Memorial Concert Series in Abingdon. For several years, she organized the performing arts events of the annual Virginia Highlands Festival.

“I’ve retired from most of my professional music responsibilities. What I do now is to prepare to accompany weekly worship at Meadowview United Methodist Church, where I’ve played since my granddaughter, Chloe Coulthard, has become choir director. Prior to that I was either choir director or choir director/accompanist at Emory UMC or Meadowview UMC for a number of years.

“I plan to continue to play for weekly worship as long as I have the stamina to do it. I have a lung disease right now that slows me down, but it does not stop me. As long as God enables me to continue, I’ll be on a bench or in front of a choir. I personally believe arts are a gift from God. I believe the arts help make me whole. I am extremely humbled by winning this award. Many others deserve it before me,” she says.

Coulthard has also received the Hope Award from Emory & Henry College’s Appalachian Center for Civic Life for community service and the Earnest T. and Anita Coulthard provides arts to community
Anita Coulthard has made a career of providing opportunities for people to connect with the arts. A musician herself, she teaches and performs. She also organizes events to share the arts with her community.

Her personal musical connection began in the second grade when she began taking piano lessons and singing in her church choir.

“I lived across the street from my small Southern Baptist Church, and they welcomed me to come over after school to get acquainted with the instruments in the sanctuary. One was a pull stop Hammond electronic organ. By middle school, I had taught myself enough about the organ to begin to play for evening services. Eventually, I played for morning services and later directed the choirs,” she says.

After completing an undergraduate degree in music at University of North Carolina at Greensboro, her first elementary classroom job in music was in Virginia Beach for seven years. During summers and night school she did course work toward completing a masters in educational leadership from University of Virginia, with the plan to become a school principal.

Then her life took a different turn.

“I was about to be assigned to the principalship of an elementary school in Virginia Beach for the coming year, when we received the call that a 7-month-old girl was available for us to adopt. So I put my plans for being an elementary school principal on hold for the immediate future. Instead, I stayed at home with my daughter, and also adopted a son. I was a stay-at-home mother until our son was entering fifth grade.

“During those years of having a flexible schedule with the children, I became involved in the music of the church. Since then, there has not been a Sunday that I haven’t, except because of sickness, sat on an organ or piano bench or stood to direct a choir. Music of the church is the music love of my life,” she says.

Some of the churches where she has played or directed include Virginia Beach Community Chapel, Abingdon United Methodist Church, Emory United Methodist Church and Meadowview United Methodist Church. She has substituted at many other churches.

“When we moved to Emory, Virginia, in the early ‘70s there were no local openings for women administrators, so I was fortunate to become involved in the life of Emory & Henry College. Most of my time at the college has been to develop and manage an arts events series. In addition I have taught church music, organ and elementary classroom music skills,” Coulthard says.

She served as arts coordinator at Emory & Henry and singlehandedly booked, marketed, budgeted and administered the visual and performing arts events. Her significant contribution to the development of a plan for the now realized McGlothlin Center for the Arts was a crucial part of that enormous collaborative effort.

Coulthard, along with Virginia Highlands Community College, helped facilitate the creation of the Spencer-Miller Memorial Concert Series in Abingdon. For several years, she organized the performing arts events of the annual Virginia Highlands Festival.

“I’ve retired from most of my professional music responsibilities. What I do now is to prepare to accompany weekly worship at Meadowview United Methodist Church, where I’ve played since my granddaughter, Chloe Coulthard, has become choir director. Prior to that I was either choir director or choir director/accompanist at Emory UMC or Meadowview UMC for a number of years.

“I plan to continue to play for weekly worship as long as I have the stamina to do it. I have a lung disease right now that slows me down, but it does not stop me. As long as God enables me to continue, I’ll be on a bench or in front of a choir. I personally believe arts are a gift from God. I believe the arts help make me whole. I am extremely humbled by winning this award. Many others deserve it before me,” she says.

Coulthard has also received the Hope Award from Emory & Henry College’s Appalachian Center for Civic Life for community service and the Earnest T. and Elizabeth C. Maiden Merit Award in recognition of unusual administrative achievements and distinctive contributions to the college.


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