Dr. Philip Powell is a professional pianist, a Professor of Music at Coastal Carolina University since 1988, and our guest artist for the second installment of our 35th Anniversary Masterworks series. Dr. Powell has performed as a soloist with the Long Bay Symphony many times in the past, and we’re greatly looking forward to hearing him perform during Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on November 6th. In the weeks leading up to our second Masterworks concert, we wanted to share with our patrons a little more about Dr. Powell and his thoughts on the future of the arts community in Myrtle Beach as well as what the future generation of musicians have to look forward as they decide to pursue music as a career.
Q&A with Dr. Philip Powell
You’ve been a part of the music “scene,” if you will, in Myrtle Beach for quite some time now. How have you seen it change over the decades and what kind of direction do you see us heading in, in terms of the increasing culture and arts in our community, in the years to come?
I have been at Coastal Carolina University (and in the Myrtle Beach area) since 1988. It is hard to believe what it used to be like here back then! It really was a very sleepy town for about nine months out of the year - I used to joke that you could have a picnic lunch in the middle of Kings Hwy in September and never see a car! It is not like that anymore! While this area has always been fortunate to attract some amazing and talented people to live here, and that was the case even in 1988, the Long Bay Symphony started as a volunteer group of locals with a wide range of background and experience. I was fortunate to play a piano concerto, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #1 in C with the Long Bay Symphony on their second concert that they had EVER given and let me tell you, it was a wild ride! We performed in Wheelwright Auditorium, (at CCU) and what we lacked in polish, the audience made up for it with enthusiasm for “our own local symphony!” That enthusiasm and support has only grown over these past 30+ years.
I hope that we are able to realize the vision for an inclusive Performing Arts Center that will service all of Horry County and our surrounding region. It would be incredible to have a facility that is acoustically excellent, with all the supporting space necessary for music of all types (symphonic, chamber, choral, etc.), theatre, and maybe even with an art gallery - This could be a transformational facility for our area.
As a sort of follow up to the previous question, you’ve played with the Long Bay Symphony many times before. Would you be willing to speak to how you’ve seen the organization as a whole change throughout our 35 years of existence as a source of quality music in the MB community?
Well, I think I touched on some of this in my first response, but I can specifically point to Charles Evans as a driving force to make the orchestra and entire organization a more professional and polished musical ensemble. The original volunteer model was a beautiful start and a great way to develop real 'grass roots' support, but it proved to be unsustainable in terms of increasing musical and artistic demands. As the community enthusiasm for the Symphony grew, so did the expectation of artistic excellence. Charles has managed that balancing act well. I am really looking forward to playing a big romantic Concerto with the Orchestra next week - it is always fun to collaborate with my many friends in the ensemble!
In a society that puts a great emphasis on STEM professions, there is, of course, still plenty of room and necessity for people who desire pursuing careers in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. As both a professional musician and a professor of music at one of the main universities in our Grand Strand community, what would you say to the younger generations of musicians who aspire to make music a part of their career?
It is so common for people to say 'Music is so competitive, you will never be able to make a living.' To that, I say, EVERY profession (even the STEM professions) is competitive! Part of the problem is we have a bizarre definition of 'success' in music. I think many well-meaning friends and family are trying to give career advice within the framework of success meaning 'international performing career.' While that is ONE definition of success, just like any other profession, success in the arts is more nuanced and multi-faceted. I would give the practical advice to PRACTICE and learn to love honing your craft!
That said, I have LOVED my life as a performer, teacher, and arts advocate here in the Grand Strand - being able to be a part of such growth and development in the Community and the University has been both exciting and rewarding, and I am thankful for all the many talented and enthusiastic people I have had the pleasure to work with. Here's to 30 more years!!!
To hear Dr. Powell perform alongside the Long Bay Symphony, join us on November 6th at the MBHS Music & Arts Center for Native Voices. Tickets are still available online and can also be purchased at the door!