The Friends of the Petrie School of Music, which created a legacy of bringing world-class musicians to the Converse stage 35 years ago, has received a sustaining gift that will provide perpetual support for future generations.
The gift honors the late Dicksie Brown Cribb ’46, one of three founding members of the annual concert series that is now known as the Carlos Moseley Chamber Music Series. The gift was given by the Cribb family, including Dicksie’s children Kenneth (Kenny) Cribb, William (Billy) Cribb, and Evelyn Cribb Ritchie, all of Spartanburg.
“The support of dedicated and personally engaged patrons has always been enormously important to the development of great music,” said Chris Vaneman, Head of the Petrie School of Music. “Dicksie was one of those rare but truly important patrons who make new things happen, and this gift ensures in a really concrete way that her legacy will continue forever.”
“Our mother graduated from Converse in 1946 with a major in voice and a minor in drama. She remained devoted to Converse and served on its Board of Trustees for 14 years,” said Kenny Cribb. “Along with Carlos Moseley, Henry Janiec, and John Richards McCrae, our mother co-founded The Friends of the Petrie School of Music, whose aim was to bring musicians of the highest artistry to Converse. Now that that generation has passed, our family wants to help sustain that effort for future generations.”
In the spring of 2017, Converse hosted the first annual Dress Up for Dicksie concert to honor Dicksie Cribb. The Cribb family invited friends and community members to join in the event, introducing the series to new audiences to help continue its momentum. The second annual concert was held earlier this month, featuring The King’s Singers.
“The name [Dress Up for Dicksie] harkens back to the original concept for concert series—a glamorous black-tie affair, followed by the always festive champagne reception. We hope music lovers in Spartanburg will enjoy stepping back in time to help us celebrate and remember our mother and her love for music at Converse,” Kenny Cribb said.
It was that incredible love of music that compelled Dicksie Cribb to dedicate much of her time and energy to the Friends concert series. “Helping young musicians was her passion, so the idea of exposing the Converse students as well as the Spartanburg community to the finest chamber music in the world was a great thrill,” said her daughter Evelyn Ritchie. During its early first years, the series presented Charles Wadsworth and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Yo-Yo Ma, Chanticleer, the Tokyo String Quartet, and the Beaux Arts Trio, among others.
“Mom was naturally the one in charge of arranging a wonderful experience for the musicians during their stay and for making sure that the post-concert champagne reception was a lovely affair,” Ritchie said. “She enlisted her Music Club friends to help with transportation for the artists to-and-from the airport, their hotels, and the rehearsals and performances. Other music-loving friends would be called up on to create gorgeous flower arrangements for the reception. Others would be asked to host an elegant dinner after the concert (musicians usually like to have dinner after they perform). Mom always shared her best recipes and tips with the caterers to make sure everything was just right.”
A Legacy of Music Through the Generations
The Cribb family has many fond memories – and a few humorous stories – tied to their mother’s dedication to music. Kenny remembers that when Carlos Moseley helped arrange for Yo-Yo Ma to perform at Converse, he asked their mother to provide entertainment. “She did so with a dinner at her home, prepared expertly by my brother Billy,” he said. “Yo-Yo mentioned his next performance was at the White House. Mama said, ‘Oh! I’ll arrange for my son Kenny to give you a tour of the West Wing and Oval Office.’ Yo-Yo accepted with delight and was promptly given a mysterious package to deliver to me at the White House. I made the mistake of opening the package in front of him, and out came a pair of old corduroys I had left behind on a visit to Spartanburg. When Carlos Moseley heard about it, in mock horror he said, ‘Oh Dicksie, don’t you know Yo-Yo has to buy an extra first-class seat just for his cello? And here you are making him carry a package of Kenny’s old clothes!’”
Billy recalls that his mother taught all of her children to love classical music, including his sister, the late Dicksie Cribb ’75 who was named for her mother and also attended Converse. “Some of my favorite childhood memories involve falling asleep every night to the music coming from the Hi-Fi in the hallway. In particular, I remember Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and La Traviata. Hearing that music as a young person instilled a love of music that is an important part of my life to this day.”
Evelyn adds that her mother also passed her love of music down to her grandchildren, constantly taking them with her to musical performances at Converse. “My daughter Caroline carries on her grandmother’s legacy and went on to work at Carnegie Hall as the Manager of the Patron Program, where her efforts helped bring in millions of dollars each year to fund music programs for young people. She credits her grandmother with introducing her to great music and to the high calling of making it widely accessible.”
A Lifetime of Service
Dicksie Cribb’s talent and dedication to music extended far beyond the Friends of the School of Music. As president of the Spartanburg Philharmonic Music Club, she helped launch an annual county-wide youth concert at Converse. Evelyn recalls that in the early days, Pine Street Elementary School students would walk to campus during the school day and have exposure to top-quality music. As the program grew, every student in the county was bussed in for the concert.
Dicksie was also deeply committed to the National Federation of Music Clubs, serving as vice-president for the Southeastern Region. For more than 20 years, she also served as Auditions Chairman for the organization’s Ellis Competition for Duo-Pianists, which was hosted every year at Converse.
As recognition for her work at Converse widened, Dicksie was asked to help nurture growing programs at nearby Brevard Music Center. She served as a member of the Board of Trustees for more than 40 years and then as Trustee Emerita. In recognition of her exceptional commitment, she received Brevard’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. Her son Kenny now carries on in her footsteps as Chairman of the Brevard Music Center Board of Trustees.
“She gave much of her time and energy to fostering young people’s musical talent, arranging music scholarships for exceptional students such as maestro Keith Lockhart, now Conductor of the Boston Pops and Artistic Director of the Brevard Music Center,” Kenny said. “One time, she was in the pre-op room at the hospital and placed a call to Phil Buchkeit in regard to raising scholarship money. She said, ‘Now Phil, this conversation has got to be brief because I’m going to be operated on in a few minutes!’ Phil replied, “Good grief, Dicksie, I’ll give you anything you want. I would feel terrible if I said no and you didn’t make it!”
In all of this, the furthest thing from Dicksie’s mind was recognition, but recognition came nonetheless. “She was always surprised but pleased when she received high honors from Converse, Brevard and other institutions,” said Kenny. In 1973, Converse recognized her with a Distinguished Alumna Award. She was also honored as one of Converse’s 100 Outstanding Alumnae at the college’s Centennial Celebration in 1989, and again as one of its 125 Outstanding Alumnae at the college’s 125th Celebration in 2014.
In 2009, when Dicksie was 85 years old, the Governor of South Carolina awarded her the Order of the Silver Crescent to recognize her lifelong efforts on behalf of our country’s finest musical traditions. The award is the state’s highest civilian honor for volunteerism and community service. “Henry Janiec received a similar award at the time, and Converse held a ceremony, telling Mama she was there to help bestow the award on Henry, and telling Henry he was there to do that for Mama. When both received awards, each was absolutely flabbergasted,” Kenny remembers.
While the recognition was flattering, what compelled Dicksie Cribb to serve was her deep sense of responsibility to use the gifts she had been given to make our world a better place.
“While studying music and drama at Converse in the early 1940s, our mother received a letter from her own mother saying, ‘service is the rent you pay for the space you occupy in life,’” said Kenny. “We still have the letter, because our mother carefully saved it for over 70 years. She referred to it regularly, perhaps as a way of gently instructing us in our duty. As with all who knew her, we saw the gifts she had been given, as well as her conscious decision to employ them in a life of service.”
Her children believe Dicksie would see their gift as an extension of her life’s work. “We know she would be proud to see her family supporting music at Converse, and we hope to carry on her legacy of service.”
Prepared by Converse College.