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Alumna Builds Award-Winning Music Program

Burrows directs chorus
Since graduating from Anderson University, Tammie Gillespie Burrows has been building an award-winning musical program.

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Burrows is currently the fine arts lead teacher at Spartanburg School District Two and orchestra director at Chesnee High School and Chesnee Middle School. She is also president-elect of the SCMEA (South Carolina Music Educators Association) Orchestra Division.

The orchestra at Chesnee High School was selected to perform at the SCMEA conference in Columbia, which took place February 8-10, 2024. 

Burrows’ love for music goes all the way back to her childhood in Easley. She enjoyed singing and began playing violin as a fifth-grader at East End Elementary School. She credits her former teacher, Kay Gilbert, for inspiring her. 

Burrows graduated from Anderson in 1999 with her bachelor of music education in instrumental music. Burrows began teaching in the district, and for the next two-plus decades, she built award-winning orchestras basically from scratch. 

“When I was hired in ’99, I taught at Chesnee Middle School for sixth and seventh grade, and Boiling Springs Middle School for sixth grade. Then, the following year, I had sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Chesnee and just sixth grade at Boiling Springs Middle; then, I went full-time on the Chesnee side when those kids went on to high school. And so, I’ve been there for the entire time, except for that first beginning class at Chesnee Middle,” she said. “When I first got there, we had four pieces of music in the music library. We only owned two violins, one viola, four cellos, and two basses—that’s all.”

Just as she was encouraged throughout her school and college years, Burrows loves the challenge of bringing out the best in her students at Chesnee Middle School and Chesnee High School.

“I just love watching the progression because I start them in the sixth grade, and I get to see them all the way through, and then I build those connections and relationships with students because we become a family,” she said. “It’s an all-inclusive group. It’s not an honors group. It’s not an audition group. You take everybody—you take them where they’re all at, and we grow together. Being able to make music with young students has been inspirational, and it’s why I’ve been at Chesnee for as long as I have. It’s just a small, family-like community. As another teacher at Chesnee High School says, ‘It’s our little slice of Heaven off of Highway 11.’”

Burrows credits Anderson with making her the teacher she is today. She remembers being concerned about how she would teach string bass, having never taken up that instrument. But she had a professor who arranged for her to take private lessons. 

“For a whole semester while I was working with her, I also had private bass lessons, which helped me so much going into the classroom,” she said. “The instrument that I’ve had more students be successful at in All-State has been string bass, and I credit part of that to the personalized attention that Anderson was able to give me.”

A fun memory for Burrows was being in a production of the musical “Pirates of Penzance.”

“It wasn’t a lead role, but it was a supporting role of one of the girls; her name was Kate, and I just absolutely loved that entire experience. It’s the only time I’ve been on stage in a musical theatre production… It was a wonderful, fun time,” said Burrows, remembering the guidance of her professors, Dr. David Larson and Dr. Richard Williamson, who still serve on the faculty of the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University. While at Anderson, Burrows was also in the traveling music group Radiance, the College Choir, the Anderson Symphony Orchestra, and the string ensemble. Burrows was also named to the Denmark Society while at Anderson. 

When she’s not teaching music, she and her family minister in song with their Southern Gospel group Faithful For.

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