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AU News

Music Professor Recalls Legacy of Her Grandmother, an Early Anderson Graduate

Newell in Golden Anchor Society
A highlight for Winnie Reid Newell was being in AU's Golden Anchor Society. Miss WInnie is pictured second from right on the front row.

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Deirdre Welborn has happy memories of sitting on the bench beside her grandmother, Winnie Reid Newell (known by everybody as “Miss Winnie”), who would play hymns on her Steinway piano. 

“She began teaching me piano when I was in the second grade. I fondly remember playing hymns with her in addition to my repertoire. Hymns were important to her, and I loved playing them with her,” Welborn recalls. 

Welborn, who is an associate professor of music in the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University and a 1982 alumna, remembers times while growing up she would visit Anderson’s campus, going with her grandmother to concerts. 

Welborn has taught voice at the University since 1996 in the Music Department of the South Carolina School of the Arts. She teaches Applied Voice and voice-related subjects to music majors in all degree programs within the Music Department, as well as musical theater majors. Welborn’s students have won statewide, regional and national honors. Many of her students have earned honors in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competitions.  

Among her students have been Andrew Poston, who recently performed on Broadway, and Chris Brown of Elevation Worship.  

Welborn now has (and continues to play) her grandmother’s beloved Steinway at her home. She also has a collection of mementos from Newell’s time at Anderson—her 1921 diploma, a 1918 college bulletin, concert programs, and photos from both her student and teaching days.  

Welborn found among Newell’s belongings a letter she wrote to Newell while she was a graduate student:  

“I wanted to write you a note just to say thank you for being such a positive influence in my life. Obviously, without your encouragement, support and knowledge, musically I would not be where I am today. I would never have accomplished what I have. But I want to thank you for being a fine, caring and generous person.” 

Newell attended Anderson just a few years after it was established as an all-female, Christian institution of higher learning, entering in 1919. The now large, majestic oaks of the Alumni Lawn were much smaller when she walked among them as a young lady. From the time of her youth, Newell’s desire was to teach school and continue learning about music. While at Anderson, Newell played numerous piano recitals. After graduation, she continued teaching piano in the community, right into her late eighties.  

Newell and other pianists in the Anderson community, known collectively as the Anderson Piano Ensemble, played in numerous music festivals and at venues locally and as far away as Columbia. Welborn says the performances were similar to today’s Festival of Keys, a concert given annually by the Music Department of the South Carolina School of the Arts.  

Newell was nearly 40 when she married and had her children later in life as she was dedicated to studying piano and teaching music. During the 1960s she returned to her Alma Mater as an adjunct piano instructor in the Music Department. At that time, the department was much smaller, having maybe three full-time faculty.  

She was also an active member of the Anderson Music Club, a precursor to Greater Anderson Musical Arts (GAMAC).  

“Miss Winnie valued her degree very much. She was here every Founders Day in that auditorium to celebrate, have dinner—it was important to her,” said Welborn, adding that she looked forward to Founders Day luncheons and was proud to be in the Golden Anchor Society, a select group of Anderson alumni who reached the fiftieth anniversary of their graduation. “She proudly performed recitals for the family after Sunday dinners in her parlor. She continued to play the standard piano repertoire even while in the nursing home at age 95! It was when she could no longer remember the pieces that we knew she wouldn’t be with us much longer.” 

Welborn says of her grandmother, “Miss Winnie is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing.” She added, “She was so proud of me. She introduced me to everyone, saying ‘She’s my musician.’” 


Web Welborn Newell together

Anderson University Music Professor Deedy Welborn plays a piano duet with Miss Winnie. At right, Miss Winnie as a student on the Anderson Campus. She’s standing on the right.

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