The Classical Station’s interview with Elizabeth Beilman for Preview!

Interview with Elizabeth Beilman
by Bethany Tillerson (Photo credit: Michael Zirkle)

Elizabeth Beilman, the North Carolina Chamber Music Institute’s Executive Director, is this week’s guest on Preview! Beyond the NCCMI, Beilman is the North Carolina Symphony’s Assistant Principal Cellist.

KENNEDY: Elizabeth, give our listeners a brief history of the North Carolina Chamber Music Institute, how it got its start, and the young musicians it serves.

BEILMAN: It was founded as a nonprofit in 2014, but it had been around for two years previous to that. My husband and I actually started it as an outgrowth of the Lamar Street field music camp here in the Raleigh area. There was a chamber music component to the camp, and some of those students at the camp were so enthralled and inspired by the chamber music experience that they wanted to keep their groups going during the academic year. We started out in 2012 with maybe three groups and it quickly grew. In 2014, one of the parents of one of the cellists happened to be an attorney, and he kindly offered to help shepherd us through that process of getting our nonprofit designation.

Since then, we just continue to grow and grow. In this coming year, it looks like we’re going to have well over 100 students in our program in 27 small ensembles. That is a record for NCCMI. I’m often asked the question, “Why would you spend so much time building this program, which has become a significant part of the cultural fabric of music education in our area?” I grew up with chamber music myself, and it really is something special. I know from personal experience, from having played music as a kid with my brothers, how wonderful it can be for your development, for your mental well-being, and skills in life beyond musical skills. When I saw that happening with the students we taught those first couple of years, I thought, we just have to make this a real thing. We need to give it the support it needs to grow.

KENNEDY: Elizabeth, tell us about some of your alums and where they’ve gone on to.

BEILMAN: Our students in the program range in age from grade four to early college. Your listeners might be interested to know how the process works. How do you match up kids of such disparate ages and levels?

It’s an extensive audition process and we really get to know the kids personally. So we know not only how they play and how easily they can meet up with other students, we also know what kind of circumstances they come from, what sorts of financial aid or other support might be needed for that student. As a result of that kind of close mentoring process, we are able to help these young musicians to fulfill their potential as young artists. Of the approximately 20 to 25 students that graduate from NCCMI and go on to college, all of them have music in some capacity when they proceed to their college years. Probably about a third of them become music majors.

We’ve had students attend all the major music conservatories across the country, including Juilliard, Oberlin, Northwestern, Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, and we have students at major universities as well that have music schools, like the University of Southern California. But we also have students who, because of their music training, were able to get full scholarships to college.

Students need to have at least two years of instrumental training before the audition for NCCMI. Auditions begin in the late spring and go through the whole summer. Make sure to check our website,, in February or March, when all the information will be up about new auditions.

Our students have gone on and done great things. We’re really proud of them and they come back and they give back to us. A big component of what we do besides the weekly sessions that the student have is that we offer them masterclass opportunities and workshops. Check out our social media because we always post about these many workshops throughout the year. They offer information that is useful and helpful and perhaps inspiring to the general public as well.

KENNEDY: Elizabeth, for the benefit of the thousands of people who have moved into the Triangle Area over the past couple of years, please stress the importance of how financial support from the local community means so much to an institution like NCCMI.

BEILMAN: It can’t be overstated how important local and continuous support is for an organization like ours. Some might say, “Why should we support this organization?” I think I’ve outlined some of those reasons. It’s really important to realize that every student, no matter their talent level, needs mentoring, because on your own you cannot achieve the level required to play the great repertoire by Beethoven or beyond. The students can’t do this all on their own. They need that mentoring, and in order to make it happen, an organization like ours depends upon support in the community. We’ve been super fortunate to have multi-year support from WCPE. The Education Fund has enabled us to provide many scholarships over the years, but that alone is not enough. While we charge what is a very nominal fee for tuition, given all that the students gain from the program, that is not enough to support the program. We always have an increasing need for scholarship support for students. We also offer our students instrumental loans, if their families cannot afford instruments. So no student comes to NCCMI worrying about how they will pay for it.

Join us to listen to Elizabeth Beilman’s full interview at 7 p.m. on Sunday, September 17th! Listen on 89.7 FM,, or our app!