The Transylvania Times -

Mountain School Of Strings Embraces Change


August 9, 2018

Sarah Dearbaugh (center) and her mother, Ellen Lee (right), have been prominent in teaching string instruments to area youth.

Mountain School of Strings began in 2010 as Transylvania Youth Strings (TYS) by the talented fiddler Ellen Lee. Her vision was to reach out to every student in the county and get them introduced to a musical instrument, no matter their ability to pay. The program took root and began to grow. In 2015, after 30 years of dormancy, Lee's cancer returned, and she was forced to take a step back from teaching at the Mountain School of Strings (MSS). After beating that cancer, she went to battle again with another tumor in 2016 and then again in July 2017, with aggressive stage IV Squamous Cell Carcinoma in her head and neck and was not given a great chance of survival.

The prayers and healing blessings began as she set off to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Ariz. to complete weeks of proton radiation and chemo. In December 2017, her scans showed zero signs of cancer- a miracle! The "Hail Mary" efforts that saved her life took her voice; however, it did not succeed in taking her unbridled determination to keep finding inspiration in every day life and moving forward. Playing music with her husband and continuing to teach her grandchildren violin and piano by example has been her path and purpose moving through post-treatment pain.

TYS began their rebranding process to MSS earlier this year after a spike in interest from adults who were wanting to begin or continue growing musically on their instrument.

"We want the program to embrace Ellen Lee's vision of reaching all students of any age or level. MSS is happy to grow into a intergenerational strings program to accommodate our community," said Sarah Dearbaugh, new executive director of Mountain School of Strings. Dearbaugh is the eldest daughter of Lee, and resides with her family in Cedar Mountain. Raised in a musical household, starting on the violin at the age of 3, her experiences have taken her through high school orchestras across the country, and she has had the honor of playing in the Phoenix Youth Orchestra. With a degree in Elementary Education and Art from Converse College, her music took a backseat to her love for working with children. Upon starting a family of her own, she began exploring her artistic and graphic talents with Page & Mason Invitations in Scottsdale, Ariz. and eventually branched off and created Dear Sarah, in which she specializes in graphic and fine art for local business and events in the Brevard and Asheville area.

"It has been a great opportunity to be able to pick back up where I left off with my music and be apart of a community that embraces and supports the musical arts. I have the honor of growing a legacy with an amazing team of board members, teachers and Ryan Kijanka, our music director. Looking forward to a great year connecting our communities through music!" Dearbaugh has recently completed her teacher training of the O'Connor Method at a music camp in Charlotte, N.C.

Mountain School of Strings is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that strives to offer classes to every student, regardless of their ability to pay. This is accomplished by generous donations from members of the community. Interested in becoming a regular donor to Mountain School of Strings? Visit Another way to donate is through the Amazon Smile program. Visit and select Mountain School of Strings as the preferred donation choice. It is an easy way to shop and support! Amazon Smile automatically donates 0.5 percent of your purchases to MSS. Connect and Follow Mountain School of Strings Facebook page and on Instagram @mountain schoolofstrings for music events and fundraisers.

Upcoming Mountain School of Strings Events:

MSS Summer Camp Aug. 13-17 at St. Philip's Church, Brevard.

MSS Fall Session will begin mid September-All classes listed online. New this year is the Kindergarten Music Appreciation class and ukulele class. All levels and ages are welcome. Find a class location that fits your needs: Brevard Academy, Brevard Elementary, Pisgah Forest Elementary, Mountain Sun Community School, Rosman Elementary, T.C. Henderson, or Brevard Music Center.

Little Mozarts Music Exploration - This program introduces pre-school age kids to different instruments weekly. Learn through music and movement! If you would like this program added to your pre-school curriculum, call (828) 412-0784 for more information.


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