Mary Tierney Selby, 86, co-founder of Williamsburg Symphonia is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

mary selbyMary Tierney Selby, violinist and co-founder of The Williamsburg Symphonia, died on Nov. 29, in Grayson, Ga., after suffering a stroke. She was 86.

The longtime Williamsburg resident, for whom creating music seemed as necessary as breathing, taught language arts at Walsingham Academy and in the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools. She later taught strings in the York County Public Schools, driving from school to school in a Ford station wagon filled with sheet music and quarter- and half-sized violins and cellos.

Born Oct. 13, 1929 in Boston, Mrs. Selby graduated in 1952 from Wellesley College with a degree in music and education. She and her husband, John E. Selby, a professor of American history at the College of William & Mary, moved to Williamsburg in 1962. Dr. Selby died in 2001, and, in 2013, Mrs. Selby moved to Georgia.

In 1984, Mrs. Selby and fellow musicians Carl Andersen, Elnore Andersen, Marian Harding, and Rebecca Siegel founded the Williamsburg Music Association (WMA) to bring musical programming to children.

Since its inaugural performance of Peter and the Wolf, the nonprofit organization has grown to include The Williamsburg Symphonia, a professional orchestra; the Williamsburg Symphonia League, a fundraising arm; and the Williamsburg Youth Orchestras. Over the years, Mrs. Selby performed with the Symphonia, the College of William & Mary Orchestra, the York River Community Orchestra, and the Northern Neck Orchestra in Kilmarnock, Va., and several quartets.

She also was a charter member of the Wednesday Morning Music Club (now the Williamsburg Music Club). A staunch supporter of civil rights, Mrs. Selby founded Williamsburg’s first integrated Girl Scout troop and was a founding member of the Williamsburg League of Women Voters.

Mrs. Selby is survived by daughter Hilary Selby Polk and her husband, Eliot, of Reading, Mass.; daughter Holly Selby and her husband, Robert Ruby, of Baltimore, Md.; and son Jonathan Selby and his wife, Rosita Torres, of Memphis, Tenn. A second son, Christopher Selby of Williamsburg, died in 2011.

Also surviving are grandchildren Adrienne and Alex Polk, Davis and Savannah Selby, and Kiera Ruby.

The family will receive friends on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Nelsen Funeral Home on Strawberry Plains Road. A service will be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Catholic Campus Ministry Chapel on Richmond Road.

Interment will follow in Cedar Grove Cemetery. Contributions may be made in Mrs. Selby’s memory to The Williamsburg Youth Orchestras, P.O. Box 1502, Williamsburg, VA 23187-1502 or

Please leave online condolences for the family at Nelsen Funeral Home.

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