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Teaching Artists

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Margaret Partridge, Director

Music, especially playing with others, has been one of the most rewarding things in my life and I am very keen for all young people to have the opportunities I have had. I think it is vitally important for children to see children who look like them, playing classical music. 

Margaret brings her wealth of experience as the former Executive Director of the Philharmonic Association (2005 -2020) to United Strings of Color. During her tenure, the non-profit Philharmonic Association tripled in the size of its programming and budget. She began United Strings of Color in 2018 as a project to address racial disparity in classical music. Knowing the importance of this work, she continued to direct United Strings of Color after she stepped down as Executive Director of the Philharmonic Association in June 2020. Margaret is a respected freelance violinist, having served as Concertmaster for the Carolina Ballet, Capital Opera, North Carolina Opera, Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, Tar River Orchestra, North Carolina Master Chorale and Durham Chorale. From 1990 – 2006 she performed regularly with the North Carolina Symphony and currently plays with the North Carolina Opera and the Carolina Ballet. She has taught violin at Huddersfield Technical College (England), Arkansas Tech University and Hendrix College.

Dona Vellek Portrait

Dona Vellek

Dona joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as Assistant Principal Cello in 1981 and retired in 2022. She was the founder of Sempre Sonare, Co-founder of the Atlanta String Quartet, and an affiliate artist with Emory University.

 

She has been a private cello instructor for over 40 years. While in Atlanta, Dona was active with the Talent Development Program, one of the longest running music education diversity programs in the country, which trains young Black and Latinex students in music performance. She also taught at the William Pu Music Academy and Emory Youth Orchestra and coached for the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra.

 

Since moving to Durham in the summer of 2022, she has joined the Durham Medical Orchestra, played as a guest with the Lynchburg and Roanoke Symphony Orchestras, taught privately, and coached for the Raleigh Civic Symphony, Triangle Youth Music, North Carolina Chamber Music Institute and United Strings of Color.

Eric McCracken Portrait

Eric McCracken

Eric began his music career as Assistant Concertmaster of the Jackson Symphony in Mississippi, and played in the Jackson State University String Quartet. During his tenure there, Eric had the good fortune to meet William Grant Still and perform the premiere of his opera, A Bayou Legend. He joined the First Violin section of the North Carolina Symphony in 1975. Eric was the Concertmaster of the Durham Symphony for ten years.  He also served as Concertmaster for the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle and the Triangle Opera Theatre.  
 

An avid music educator, Eric taught beginning strings in the public schools in Jackson, as well as private students.  Today, he maintains a private teaching studio in his home in Louisburg.  Eric has taught at the Lamar Stringfield Chamber Music Camp, St. Mary’s College, Cannon Music Camp at Appalachian State University.  In addition, he has been a string coach for Triangle Youth Music and the North Carolina Chamber Music Institute.  Recently, Eric has been coaching for the United Strings of Color.

 

Eric and his family own a business called The Garden at Portridge specializing in native pollinator perennials.  He is currently restoring an original early one-room North Carolina house which will enhance his 18th Century house, Portridge, and the garden business. He is also a devoted student of the scriptures and gives weekly Bible studies in his home.

William Henry Curry Portrait

William Henry Curry

Maestro William Henry Curry was appointed Music Director and Conductor of the Durham Symphony Orchestra in May 2009.  From 1998 to 2016, he was the Resident Conductor and Summerfest Artistic Director of the North Carolina Symphony.  A native of Pittsburgh, Curry began viola studies with Eugene Reichenfeld at age 11 and began conducting and composing at age 14.  Maestro Curry has held Resident Conductor posts with the Baltimore Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra and has served as Associate Conductor of the Indianapolis and Atlanta Symphonies. 

In 1988 Maestro Curry became the only unanimous prize winner of the prestigious Leopold Stokowski conducting Competition. His first professional recording of Anthony Davis’ opera X: the Life and Times of Malcolm X was nominated for a Grammy Award.  More recently, he has been honored by the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission and received the City of Raleigh Medal of the Arts for his achievements in advancing the arts in North Carolina. In addition, Maestro Curry has been a mentor and a beacon for young musicians at the Peabody Conservatory, the Baltimore School of Arts, and many music schools in the state of North Carolina.

Nygel Harris Photo

Nygel Harris

Nygel began his music education career in 2017 as Co-Director and Founder of the Music Program at Legacy Crossing Community Center in Greensboro, NC. As a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he continues to support music education at the college where he has served as a Rehearsal Assistant and Camp Counselor during their yearly Summer Music Camp program.

 

Since moving to Raleigh in 2020, Nygel has also served as the Orchestra Director at LeRoy Martin Gifted & Talented Magnet Middle School. There, he advocates for arts education as the Arts Department Chair and serves on both the School Improvement Team and Leadership Team.

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