Obituary for Laura Virginia Tillotson (Tillotson)
Laura Virginia Tillotson, 84, a long-time resident of Brevard, North Carolina, peacefully passed into eternal rest on December 12, 2017. Known as “Virginia,” “Ginny,” “Tillie”, and “Miss Tilly,” she leaves behind a world made brighter with her smile, more beautiful through her music, smarter with her enviable wit, and happier with her ever-present humor and laughter.
Virginia was born in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She is survived by her younger brother, James L. Tillotson (Judy) of Charlotte, North Carolina, several nieces, cousins, and many, many dear friends. Virginia joins her loving parents, Harold L. and Eunice B. Tillotson, brother, Harold Jr., infant sister, Myrtle Ann, nephew, Scott Tillotson, great-niece, Cyndie Candler Mattingly, and many wonderful aunts, uncles and cousins.
Growing up next door to her grandparents’ boarding house, The Cottage Hotel, Virginia played clarinet in her high school band. James Pfohl was taken with her musical ability and offered a scholarship to attend Transylvania Music Camp, now known as Brevard Music Center. Virginia would return to Brevard Music Center every summer through her teen years, her college and graduate studies and into her teaching career. Virginia earned her Bachelor of Music Degree from Baylor University in Texas, where she was a proud member of the Baylor Marching Bears. She obtained her Master of Music Degree at the University of Illinois and pursued doctoral studies at University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), Jacksonville University, Northwestern University and Frostburg State University and studied conducting on multiple overseas trips.
Virginia began her teaching career in Jacksonville, Florida before returning to North Carolina to teach at the Brevard College of Music, spending the next 3+ decades teaching woodwinds, directing concert bands and singers, chairing the Fine Arts department, and witnessing the first 4-year music degrees being conferred and the opening of the Porter Center. In the summers, Virginia served on the artist faculty at the Brevard Music Center. She also performed as principal clarinetist for the Asheville Symphony, Brevard Chamber Orchestra and the Brevard Music Center.
In 1980, Virginia succeeded Jackson Parkhurst as the second Conductor and Artistic Director of the Brevard Chamber Orchestra (predecessor of today’s Brevard Philharmonic). Over the next 21 years under her steady baton and creative encouragement, the Brevard Philharmonic grew from a chamber ensemble to a renowned 55-piece orchestra, with guest artists as varied as Phyllis Diller and Robert Moog, an innovator in electronic music. Virginia also conducted the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra from 1989 to 1993. Virginia enjoyed a renowned rapport with the audience (people still talk about her jokes). Retiring in 2001, Virginia remained a Brevard resident.
In 2005, the Brevard Chamber Orchestra Association awarded Virginia a Golden Baton and named her conductor emeritus. “The much-loved Tillotson relished the moment among old friends and delivered very funny remarks that kept all the hearts in check.” In 2011, the Brevard Philharmonic honored Virginia during its 35th anniversary celebration, with an observer noting that “a conversation with Tillotson is peppered with comic anecdotes and quick-witted come-backs that, while delivered gently, showcase her wicked sense of humor and love of life.” In 2016, Virginia published her memoirs, “Conducting Matters, a Sonata of Life.”
Accomplished musician, composer, conductor, author, sister, and friend, Virginia was above all an educator who found her joy inspiring young people to explore the magical world of music. Throughout her teaching career, Virginia nurtured her students, many of whom would attend prestigious conservatories and pursue careers in music, including future teachers, band leaders and professional performers. Miss Tilly will be missed by many whose lives she touched.
Memorial services will be announced.
Online condolences may be left at www.moodyconnollyfuneralhome.com
Moody-Connolly Funeral Home and Crematory are caring for the family.