Laura Blevins Douglass became a member of the Harrisonburg Music Teachers’ Association following a career that included seven years as the Assistant Choral Director/Accompanist at Woodbridge Senior High School in Prince William County followed by 37 years as a full-time Minister of Music/Organist and Ordination as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. She served Fairlington UMC in Alexandria from 1979-1990 prior to Asbury UMC, Harrisonburg from 1991-2016.
While at Fairlington she oversaw the purchase of a Holtkamp tracker action organ in the sanctuary and a Daniel Meyer organ in the chapel. Her years at Asbury included the purchase of a Steinway grand piano in 1994 as well as the renovation with additions to the 1965 Möller electro-pneumatic action organ by Orgues Létourneau of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec in 1997. Duties at both churches also included service planning, supervision of over 20 music ministry interns from JMU, EMU, and Bridgewater College, directing a graded program including vocal and handbell choirs, coordinating instrumental ensembles and soloists and administering the church’s Sacred Arts Series, a summer Arts & Mission Camp and other community outreach events.
A native of Page County she received a B. A in Music from Mary Washington College in 1973 (Mu Phi Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa) and the Master of Music degree from Northwestern University in 1977. Coursework leading to ordination as a Deacon occurred at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. At JMU she completed Kodaly Level 1 and 2 studies and audited Dr. Tonya Holland’s Piano Pedagogy course during the Fall 2017 semester.
Although retired from weekly church responsibilities, Laura enjoys substituting at area churches on a regular basis. In addition, retirement has provided the opportunity to pursue additional musical interests. Funded by two one-time grants in 2016 and occasional donations, she founded The Family Music Project as an initiative to create mutual understanding, exchange, and empathy among local families and those who have immigrated to this area. Immanuel Mennonite Church on Kelley Street has hosted numerous six-week sessions in which she incorporates Musikgarten materials along with culturally relevant music. Plans are to pursue non-profit status for this program, and Laura is enrolled in a class on non-profit basics offered through Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Laura opened the Douglass Keyboard Studio in 2017 with a focus on beginners and students whose families reflect the cultural diversity of the area. HMTA membership has been and continues to be a significant source of support and inspiration in this endeavor. Through teaching Laura is filling in the pedagogical holes in her own piano background. The student of seven piano teachers from childhood through college and organ professors Peggy Kelley Reinburg and Richard Enright, she is retracing her pedagogical development as she trains young musicians. She continues to learn from her HMTA colleagues and members of the JMU MTNA chapter. Most of all she feels fortunate that music education and performance have been and continue to be a focal part of her life.
Aside from music, Laura enjoys traveling. In 2016, She undertook a Celtic pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland and Northern England, and the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in 2018. Her daughter Kate’s career in global health has taken her to Panama, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Nigeria and has also included a side trip to hike to the base camp of Mt. Everest.
Interesting fact: Laura spent 3 summers living in Johnston dorm at Madison College (now James Madison University) in the 1960s. Her mother, with Laura and her brother in tow, returned to school to complete her teaching degree after the state required those with 2-year Normal Professional teaching degrees earned in the 1930s to hold a 4-year degree. While mothers were in class, the children attended morning classes at Anthony-Seeger, ate meals in the Harrison Hall dining room, went to afternoon day camp down the hill behind the bluestone campus, swam in the Keezle indoor pool, and played softball on the field behind Johnston dorm after supper. Laura’s first organ lesson was with Helen Inninger in Harrison Hall.