Fran Belin grew up in Brooklyn, NY. From an early age she studied classical piano, taking the subway to her lessons in Manhattan.
In the mid 1960’s, she moved to Greenwich Village to take a position working for American playwright, Maryat Lee. One day, as she relates in her 2010 book, Gone But Not Forgotten, she was riding an uptown bus when she noticed a sign which read: “ Make New York a better place, leave!” And so she did!
In 1971, she and her daughter, Anina, along with Maryat Lee, left New York City for the mountains of West Virginia, having purchased a small farm in Powley Creek near Hinton. At that time, a back-to-the-land movement was taking place in several rural states and land in West Virginia was extremely cheap. A few years after settling in and learning how to navigate life “up the holler” without the external stimulation of city life or her much loved bialys and bagels, she and Maryat initiated a street theater performance company, Eco Theatre, which developed drama productions out of oral histories in Appalachia – Ole Miz Dacey and John Henry among them. In embracing local residents and their personal stories, the strange newcomers gradually became welcomed by and embedded in their new West Virginia community.
In the early 1980’s, Fran relocated to nearby Lewisburg and secured a studio teaching/apartment where she continued to give private piano instruction as she had done while living near Hinton. Presented with an opportunity to purchase a piece of land on the Sandell Creekside property near Greenville, she began her journey of fulfilling a long held dream – creating a school for the arts. Along with a skilled local carpenter named Ford, Fran built, created, and then directed the Indian Creek School for the Arts, offering workshops on photography, painting, classical piano and – to the delight of friends, neighbors and community members – numerous house concerts which filled the tranquil countryside with the most beautiful music. After its construction, her home in Greenville became her primary residence, although she maintained her teaching studio/apartment in Lewisburg up until her retirement in 2016.
Some of Fran’s numerous contributions to the Greenbrier Valley include: Musical Director for Greenbrier Valley Theatre’s production of The King & I when GVT was located in the barn; fund raising piano performances for GVT & Family Refuge Center, and Tuesdays with Fran series at Carnegie Hall (2004-2014), which entailed a lunch hour lecture imparting comedic anecdotes about each composer to the delight of her audiences. Her quick-witted humor will be fondly remembered as much as her passion for the arts and talent at the piano.
A classical pianist, writer, photographer, painter, as well as beloved piano teacher of 40-plus years, Fran Belin will be dearly and sorely missed by all those she deeply touched. She is survived by her daughter Anina, her brother Robbie, her beloved dog Pooh Bear, and a multitude of friends near and far. A public celebration of Fran’s life and many contributions to our community at-large will be held at a future date, time and location to be announced.