Dr. John O’Brien came to Greenville and ECU in 1985. He is a Professor of piano and early music at ECU and he also serves as organist and choirmaster at First Presbyterian Church in Kinston. Dr. O’Brien began conducting the Eastern Youth Orchestra in 1986. He grew up in a musical family. Both of his parents are pianists and his three brothers are all string players. He grew up studying piano, violin, and flute, and playing string quartets with his brothers. When Dr. O’Brien is not teaching, conducting, or performing, he is usually working on his 1901 Victorian house.
Betsy Hughes began Suzuki violin lessons at the age of three in Greenville, North Carolina with Nancy Kostek and later with Katherine Jenkins. While a student at East Carolina University, she studied with Fritz Gearhart, Ara Gregorian, and Joanne Bath. She received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education from ECU in 2001 and her Master of Music in Violin Performance with a concentration in Suzuki Violin Pedagogy in 2002. Mrs. Hughes has registered long term teacher training with the Suzuki Association of the Americas for volumes 1A-10. Her public school teaching career began as the general music teacher in 2001 at Falkland Elementary School in Falkland, NC. Upon moving to the Triangle in 2002, she began working with the Wake County Public Schools as an orchestra director, serving Wakefield Middle and Wakefield High where her orchestras and chamber music ensembles received Superior ratings at the NC Music Educators Eastern Regional Orchestra Festival and the NC Eastern Regional Solo and Ensemble Festival for many years. Many of her students at the junior high and high school level were accepted to the NC Eastern Regional All State Orchestra as well as the Honors Orchestra.
Mrs. Hughes joined the Durham Public Schools strings faculty in 2007 and was part of the DPS family until moving back to Pitt County in June 2016. She was the founding artistic director of the Morehead Montessori Suzuki Program and the Lakewood Montessori Middle School Orchestra. Her groups frequently collaborated with Triangle area professional music ensembles such as The Beast and Kickin' Grass.
Mrs. Hughes has served on the faculty of the NC Suzuki Institute since 2002. She is also on the faculty for the Virginia Suzuki Institute and the Pennsylvania Suzuki Institute. She has been a summer clinician for the Community School of the Arts in Charlotte, NC, and a guest clinician for the Suzuki School of the Arts in Hickory (NC), a clinician for the Chapel Hill Cooperative Suzuki Project Fall Workshop, and the orchestra director for SCOrE (Summer Choral and Orchestra Extravaganza) at UNC. She has made guest conducting appearances with the Onslow County (NC) 7th and 8th grade Honors Orchestra as well as the Chesapeake, VA District Junior High Orchestra.
Currently, Mrs. Hughes is the orchestra director at JH Rose HS and CM Eppes Middle School in Greenville. She has eighteen years of classroom experience. She enjoys volunteering with the Junior League of Greenville, NC and serving on the Farmville Community Arts Council Board of Directors as president. She resides in Farmville with her husband, Robert, and their two children, Murray (age 13) and Hazel Kate (age 10).
Dee Braxton-Pellegrino is a native of Pitt County with over thirty years of experience as a violinist, conductor, educator and composer.
Dee received a Master’s degree in Music Education from ECU, where she studied with Dr. Rodney Schmidt. She also studied with Dr. David Cerone at the Meadowmount School, and with Dr. Oswald Lehnert at the University of Colorado. She has taught and conducted at all levels, from K-12 through University. She also teaches privately, with studios in Greenville and Morehead City. She is a certified Suzuki instructor and has a particular spirit for elementary-level instruction and establishing sound fundamental technique in young players.
As a performer, Dee is well-known throughout Eastern North Carolina as a violinist and violist, spanning genres from classical symphony, ensemble and solo repertoire to popular music and jazz. She has held full-time conducting positions at Barton College and for the annual Symphony of Hope benefit concert, and has conducted at the Lamar Stringfield Music Camp at Meredith College, as well as with various community and teaching orchestras.
Also an accomplished composer and arranger, Dee has published numerous pieces for string quartet and string orchestra, and her pedagogical works have won critical acclaim in the Journal of the American String Teacher’s Association.
Dee applies her depth of knowledge and experience through a natural and engaging teaching style, fueling her effectiveness and garnering the esteem of both students and parents.