As June Andrews approached adulthood, she had only four wishes for her lifetime: to teach piano, to play organ for a small church, to teach her children to love music, and to play with a symphony orchestra. By the time she turned 92 in January, she had fulfilled all of them except the last. But when her daughter Marian learned of the “Wish of a Lifetime” program—a charitable affiliate of the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP)—she applied on behalf of her mother (wishofalifetime.org).
Andrews fulfilled her final wish on Saturday, June 3, in Grisham Hall at St. Anne’s Belfield when she played the piano solo in the first movement of Alex Rowley’s Miniature Concerto with the Albemarle Symphony Orchestra (ASO). “The AARP program sponsored me. They found the Albemarle Symphony Orchestra, who invited me to play with them. They would have paid for a flight if I had needed to travel, and they gave me a $200 gift certificate. We used that to celebrate with my entire extended family at Hibachi Grill.”
That family—including two sons with their spouses, two daughters, two grandchildren with their spouses, and three great-grandchildren—travelled to Charlottesville from as far as Ohio, Missouri, and Richmond to hear June play. They sat in the balcony with many other local “Friends of June Andrews,” and celebrated her at a reception after the concert. “I have a very musical family,” June allowed. “My 9-year-old great grandson Harry has perfect pitch.”
The Wish foundation notified Andrews in November 2022 that she had been selected. “When we were contacted by the AARP,” said Bill McCollough, executive director of the ASO, “I and our music director Philip Clark were intrigued by June’s story and agreed to meet her. June made quite an impression and, after a couple of rehearsals, we decided to invite her to perform with us at our final concert of the season on June 3. It’s June herself who made this particularly special; she is a spry lady with real sparkle and old-fashioned elegance. We have all just fallen in love with her.”
“I had only six months to practice before the concert,” Andrews confirmed. “A friend enlarged the music and installed clips so I could easily turn the pages without a page turner. I practiced with two violinists twice and with the full orchestra four times, but in Grisham Hall only once. The maestro could not have been kinder. He met me one on one, gave me tips, and cued me when to come in.”
As she entered the stage, Andrews looked elegant in her full-length black gown with sheer sleeves and perfectly coifed hair. Sitting at the Kawai grand piano amidst the orchestra, her face glowed as she played the showy, lilting piano solo, with its many exciting trills and arpeggios, flawlessly. “I felt two ways during the concert: I was thrilled by this wonderful experience that I had waited for all my life. But being in the spotlight, surrounded by all those violins, was also really intimidating!”
June Andrews was born in Norfolk but raised in Danville. Although an only child, she was raised by her grandmother along with seven cousins, so she was never lonely. She began studying piano at the age of 10, and later added organ. “I dearly loved my piano teacher, Mrs. Ethel Clark. I did not care at all for one of my piano teachers at Averett College… she would actually hit my fingers with a ruler when I let my finger joints bend!” Andrews confided. “I chose not to go to conservatory and become a concert pianist. I just wanted to teach piano, play for a small church, and get my children into music.” In all of those, she has succeeded.
As she was growing up, Andrews loved to listen to piano music, especially played by Spanish pianist José Iturbi Báguena. He appeared in several movies, including Music for Millions (1944) and Anchors Aweigh (1945). When she was 16, her parents took her to New York to hear him play live at Carnegie Hall. He gave seven encores. She still has the program he signed. “I still remember how wonderful that was,” she said.
After graduating from Averett College in Danville, she married her husband of 60 years, who died in 2011. He served in the navy as a medic before they were married, and again during the Korean War. When he became the chemistry teacher at Miller School in 1961, where she served as chapel organizer, they moved to a house on campus where she gave piano lessons. They moved to Crozet when he retired in 2008, where she continued to teach piano, for a total of 43 years. She quickly became involved in life of the Crozet community. She served as organist and choir director at Crozet Methodist church for 25 years. “I’ve taught hundreds of students, too many to count, both at my home and at Crozet Methodist church.”
In May of 1979, when seven friends at a Bible study decided (after much prayer) that Crozet needed a place to pass on outgrown clothes, she co-founded the Green Olive Tree, along with Nancy Virginia Bain, Grace Waller, Evelyn Doyle, and Sarah Rogers—whose granddaughter is still a customer. “That makes 44 years! It began out of the Brownsville Market as a ministry to the community,” she explained. “Later we became a nonprofit thrift shop, got a cash register to replace our shoebox, and moved into Minda’s old shop (where Bluebird Books is now).” The rest is history!
Andrews’ many contributions to the Crozet community were acknowledged as she occupied a place of honor in our Independence Day parade on July 1.
The Albemarle Symphony Orchestra, formerly the Crozet Symphony Orchestra, is directed by Philip Clark. Having outgrown its former performance space at Crozet Baptist Church, its 45 members filled the spacious Grisham Hall with a full, dramatic sound. The hall’s excellent acoustics enhanced the “La Musique” program of French music, including works by Fauré, Saint-Saens, Bizet, and Poulenc. James Tobin, principal clarinetist with the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra, also gave a haunting solo performance of Francis Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata. They will begin their tenth season in November 2023, with a concert at Grisham Hall.