Category Musician Bios

Strings & Things is a network of professionally trained musicians in the Gloucester, Mathews, Middlesex and Kilmarnock Virginia areas. The purpose of the group is to help patrons of the arts locate musicians for weddings, receptions, parties, and performance. Patrons may request a soloist, duet, trio, quartet or ensemble. A variety of instrumentation is available, including violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, bassoon, trumpet, keyboard and more. Classical and popular music is available for most instrument combinations.

Strings & Things members are typically the best musicians in the area. Many have played with professional orchestras or currently play with community orchestras. They perform regularly in community concerts, at local churches, and for private events. Several of the musicians also perform with musical groups in the Northern Neck and Richmond areas. For more information or for bookings, contact Nina Buzby at (804) 725-5947 or mail requests to:

Strings & Things
attn. Nina Buzby
P.O. Box 987
Mathews, VA 23109

Florence Florace Arnold – Member Emeritus – Viola

Florace began playing viola in the Richmond Public Schools and studied with Frank Wendt. She graduated from Temple University with a degree in Music Supervision. During her husband’s military career, she played with the Tucson Symphony, and Monterey Symphony, as well as other local groups wherever they were stationed. After moving to Gloucester, she taught elementary school music for eight years in York County. She was assistant conductor for the Peninsula Youth Orchestra and, during that time, organized the Peninsula String Sinfonia for less experienced string players as a training ensemble for the senior orchestra. Florace is a founding member of Strings & Things and is now a member emeritus.


Larry Arnold – Bassoon


Mei Mei Li Beane – Violin

Mei Li had studied music at Rutgers University, the Conservatory of Seville, Spain and the College of William and Mary from which she holds a degree. She is a member of the Northern Neck Orchestra and has played with several orchestras and ensembles. She presently assists two churches with music and she is much sought after as both vocalist and violinist.


 rex Rex Britton – Violin/Viola

Rex Britton holds a Bachelor of Music, Music Performance & Education Degree from the Eastman School of Music where he was a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Honorary Music Fraternity. He holds a Master of Music, Violin Performance Degree from West Virginia University. Rex played with the Richmond Symphony for 37 years where he was the principal and co-principal second violinist, the acting assistant conductor and a member of the first violin section. Mr. Britton has been an orchestra and band director for Richmond Public Schools, and an orchestra, string and choral director for Henrico Public Schools. He has been the Conductor of the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program, Head of the Young Performers Program in the Richmond area, and Director of the Musicians Club String Orchestra in addition various other orchestras. Currently Rex plays violin with the Williamsburg Symphonia; a group with which he has played since March of 2000. He is the first violinist and business manager of the New Victorian String Quartet and Trio Con Brio in the Richmond area. He plays locally with the Strings & Things Network and the Festival Musicians.


Nina Bio Pict. Nina Eastman Buzby – Cello

Nina grew up in a family where musicianship was a rich heritage. She began playing cello in the Richmond Public Schools when she was 10, and studied privately with Paul Cartwright and Gesila Depcat of the Richmond Symphony. Nina was a member of the Richmond Symphony during the early 70′s before moving to Mathews VA. She currently performs widely in the tri-county area as part of the Strings & Things network of local musicians. She also performs with “Trio Con Brio” in the Richmond area, and “The Festival Musicians” and “Rappahannock Chamber Soloists” in the Kilmarnock area. Nina, a Mathews resident, is a retired first grade teacher and administrator. She is a founding member of The Tuneful Teachers and manages the BayBells Community Handbell Choir. Nina currently teaches cello lessons at The Bay School of the Arts.


Valerie Bio Picture Valerie Philbrick-DeBrava, Violinist

Originally from Connecticut, where she studied at the Hartt School of Music, Valerie now lives in the Hayes, VA area. She plays baroque violin for Colonial Williamsburg and teaches violin at Centerstage Academy for the Performing Arts in York County. She also teaches Philosophy at the College of William and Mary and English at a continuing education branch of Saint Leo University. She holds graduate degrees in English and American Studies from the College of William and Mary.


Linda Douglas Linda Kay Douglas - Violin
Linda grew up in a musical family and began playing the violin in the Fairfax County Public Schools when she was 9. She played with the Northern Virginia Youth Symphony, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, and studied with Nina Collins of the Friday Morning Music Club while in high school. She played in a string quartet, coached by cellist Janet Kriner, while a student at the College of William and Mary. Locally, Linda has performed with the Northern Neck Community Orchestra, the Rappahannock Chamber Soloists, the Festival Musicians, and Strings & Things. She used to teach violin at The Center for the Arts. Linda is a retired high school math teacher and gifted program coordinator. She is a member of the Rappahannock Music Study Club. Linda floats between homes in FL and VA and currently performs with Neil Smart on piano at various venues.


Margaret Bio Pict Margaret Lawyer – viola

Margaret is a 1974 graduate of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. She has actively supported local music activities for many years, being a charter member of the Northern Neck Community Orchestra and of the Strings & Things Network. She also plays with several “just for fun” chamber music groups.


Melinda Bio Pict Melinda McKenzie - Oboe

Melinda began her musical studies on piano at age ten, though her long association with the oboe began when she entered high school, during which she studied with Russian oboist Isai Belinsky. In 1977 she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in performance from the University of Connecticut, where she was a student of Arthur Krilov. Following graduation she enlisted as a bandsman in the U.S. Army, serving for a year at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey before assuming duties as oboe instructor at the Naval School of Music at Little Creek, Virginia, a position she held for over eleven years. Other assignments included the 101st Airborne/Air Assault Division Band at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, during which she deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm: the United States Army Band and Chorus in Heidelberg, Germany; and lastly the United States Continental Army Band at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia from which she retired in 2000 as a Master Sergeant. She has played with the Virginia Symphony and the Williamsburg Symphonia and does extensive freelance work in the Tidwater area, including frequent appearances as guest instrumentalist with the women’s choral ensemble “Bellissima!”. She is also the principal oboist of the Chesapeake Bay Wind Ensemble and has been a featured soloist on several of the Candlelight Concerts sponsored by Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg. Ms. McKenzie resides in Gloucester County with a menagerie of cats, chickens, horses, and assorted wildlife.


Carolyn Plummer Carolyn Plummer – Violin

Ms. Plummer is Professor Emerita of Music at the University of Notre Dame where she was Associate Professor of Music (Violin) from 1989 until retiring in July, 2013. As violinist of the Notre Dame String Trio, she recorded and toured extensively with the ensemble and released highly acclaimed CDs on the Centaur label featuring repertoire written by twentieth century composers, including the string trios of Paul Hindemith, chamber works of David Diamond, and a world premiere of a string trio composed by Ethan Haimo. Prior to joining the faculty at Notre Dame, she was Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida where she performed extensively in the U.S. and Europe with the Atlanta Virtuosi. As a violinist with the Houston Symphony from 1974-1986, she held the titled position of Assistant Concertmaster and was a frequent soloist and recitalist. She holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from Indiana University and a Master of Music Degree with Honors in Violin Performance from the New England Conservatory, where she studied with Joseph Silverstein and Charles Treger. Performances include concerts at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Fontana Chamber Series, the Mostly Music Series in Chicago, and a debut concert in Carnegie/Weill Recital Hall, New York. She has collaborated in performances with colleagues from Oberlin, Vanderbilt University, the University of Iowa, and principal musicians from the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, and Houston Symphony. Ms. Plummer has served as Concertmaster of the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, and has been a guest artist in the “Strings in the Mountains” in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the Garth Newel Chamber Music Series, and the Atlanta Virtuosi Chamber Music Festival at Bates College. She has performed in the International Musikdorf in Ernen, Switzerland, and further honors include second place in the Coleman Chamber Music Association, in Pasadena, CA, and seven consecutive Fellowships in the Aspen Music Festival. Concert broadcasts include NPR; Boston WGBH; New York WNET; and Los Angeles PBS.

Laura Rowe – Flute
Laura is a professional flutist who has worked with musicians from all over the globe. She studied music at Newberry College and The University of South Carolina and attended a flute Master Class with Marzio Conti. She is one of the founding members of the the Northern Neck Orchestra, and has been a guest soloist for several orchestras. Laura teaches flute and performs frequently in the Northern Neck. She also coordinates and performs with the Festival Musicians, a network of professional musicians in the Northern Neck area.

Courtenay Smith – Flute


donna Donna Taylor – Cello

Donna has been a valued member of many musical groups wherever she has lived. She is currently a member of the Peninsula String Quartet and the Strings & Things Network. Donna has also played with several community orchestras, including the Gloucester/Mathews Courthouse Community Orchestra, York River Symphony Orchestra, Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, and the North Pittsburgh Orchestra.


Baylor Bio Pict Baylor Towne - Violin

Baylor began playing violin in 2003 at the age of six and currently studies with Arkady Heifetz. She is a member of the Williamsburg Youth Orchestra, the Courthouse Community Orchestra, and the Tidewater Home School Sinfonietta. Baylor was concertmaster of the Southeastern Virginia Junior Honor Orchestra in 2010, and attended the Jacobs School of Music Summer String Academy at Indiana University the same year. In 2012 Baylor was a member of the All-Virginia Orchestra as well as the principal second violin of the Southeastern Virginia Regional Orchestra. Also in 2012, Baylor won the Williamsburg Youth Orchestra concerto competition and performed as a soloist for their Spring concert. Baylor began playing professionally with Strings & Things in 2010.


Peggy Bio Picture Peggy Watson – Violin/Viola

Peggy grew up in a musical family. She started playing violin at age 8 and played in a string trio with her sisters. She studied music education at Grove City College and obtained a Masters Degree at Long Island University. She was an orchestra teacher for seven years in New York before moving to Virginia. Currently Peggy teaches violin and Kindermusik in Newport News. She plays with numerous musical groups including the Grace Notes String Ensemble, Stowe Haven Strings, and Strings & Things.

Additional Musicians Who Also Play With the Network:
Peter Booker – trumpet
David Britton – percussion
Judy Britton – flute
Susan Hines – cello
Molly Hoffman-Crook – flute
Camiel Sims – clarinet