For alumni and friends
of the university

An Ode to Greenville

Vanzeppelin Aerial

Bob Farnsworth ’74 sends a love letter to his hometown in music and images.

By Jerry Salley ’90

THE FILM BEGINS WITH THE BEAUTY AND QUIET OF NATURE, THE CAMERA SOARING ABOVE A GREEN FOOTHILLS LANDSCAPE ACCOMPANIED BY CHIRPING BIRDS.

Soon, images of water fill the screen. The water – along with the music on the soundtrack – builds in force and intensity as a lake cuts to a gurgling mountain stream, which leads to a river foaming over rapids.

Bob Farnsworth at a piano

Bob Farnsworth ’74 / Courtesy photo

The camera follows the river into the heart of Greenville, South Carolina, swooping past iconic locations – including Furman’s Bell Tower – and busy citizens. The images and music, played by the Greenville Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edvard Tchivzhel, merge in “Where Water Flows,” a seven-minute film and orchestral work that reflects the diversity and history of the city that Nashville, Tennessee-based composer Bob Farnsworth ’74 still calls home.

“I never really left Greenville,” says Farnsworth, who entered Furman after graduating from Greenville High School.

“I’m a serious homeboy. It’s the best place to live in the world.”

“Where Water Flows” premiered with live symphonic accompaniment at the Peace Center in October 2022 to open the GSO’s 75th season. The score and the film – directed by Jeffrey Berry and produced by Farnsworth’s Hummingbird Productions – were commissioned to honor the anniversary.

The piece is what Farnsworth calls “fusic” – the fusion of film and music. Instead of creating a score to match a finished film or editing a film to match a finished score, “fusicians” develop the audio and visuals in tandem, Farnsworth explains, leveraging the power of both to connect emotionally with an audience.

“Fusic” has helped Farnsworth build one of the longest-standing film and advertising music production companies in the United States. A guitarist and singer who performed with Furman’s Concert Choir, Farnsworth moved to Nashville after graduating with an English degree and signing a major label record contract. He was soon composing commercial jingles, founding Hummingbird Productions in 1976. The company has created Clio Award-winning material for Coca-Cola, Wrigley and Oscar Mayer, produced music for IMAX films and collaborated with the likes of Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“Where Water Flows” juxtaposes footage of Greenville’s dynamic present with archival images that trace the town’s development into the “Textile Center of the South” and the grim times that followed when the mills shut down. The cleanup of the Reedy River, poisoned for years by pollution from the mills, was a major inspiration for Farnsworth.

“Water is life-giving, and Greenville grew up around water,” he says. “And it builds and builds into something bigger, and then that water is spoiled. And then that water almost exists to say, ‘I’ll forgive you. Let’s just do it better.’”

In the final sequence, the sparkling Reedy River rushes under the Liberty Bridge in a revitalized downtown park. Farnsworth’s score crescendos in a passage that he admits borrows heavily from “Rhapsody in Blue.

“That’s meant to give you the chills and think, ‘We really did it right,’” he says.

Fade to black and roll credits on this “serious homeboy’s” ode to his favorite place. Watch “Where Water Flows” at peacecenter.org/about-us/a-tribute-to-greenville

ALL AROUND GREENVILLE, MEMORIALS AND LANDMARKS HONOR THE HISTORY OF THE CITY AND ITS PEOPLE, AS WELL AS ITS CONNECTIONS TO FURMAN UNIVERSITY.

mural on canvas tower in greenville south carolina

The mural on the side of Canvas Tower / The Beach Company

Pearlie Harris M’83 is at the center of a massive mural on the side of the eight-story CANVAS TOWER in Greenville. Harris, who helped integrate schools in Greenville County during a 37-year career as an educator, has also been honored as the namesake of the Bon Secours Health System’s Pearlie Harris Center for Breast Health. The mural, completed in 2020, depicts Harris surrounded by children – including Sage Criss, daughter of Shaniece Criss, an associate professor of health sciences and director of the Master of Arts in Advocacy and Equity Studies at Furman, pictured at Harris’s side.

The XANTHENE SAYLES NORRIS PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE is a tribute to Xanthene Sayles Norris M’71, who retired early this year after a quarter-century of service on the Greenville County Council. For years, Norris, along with Furman Director of Community Relations and S.C. State Rep. Chandra Dillard and City Councilwoman Lillian Brock Flemming ’71 M’75 H’14, had pushed for a bridge over the railroad tracks that separated the historically Black Southernside community from the rest of Greenville. The previous Hampton Avenue bridge had been torn down in 2012. But in 2020, the new Xanthene Sayles Norris Pedestrian Bridge opened, connecting the Southernside neighborhood to the city once again.

Near FALLS PARK ON THE REEDY downtown, a length of stone wall runs between two pillars. On the left is the seal of Furman University; the other pillar holds the seal of the Greenville Woman’s College. A sign in the center explains that the all-male Furman University sat on the bluff just above the wall, with the Woman’s College a mile away on Heritage Green. During the Great Depression, the two institutions combined, and a new campus near Travelers Rest opened in 1958. The stone wall, erected in 2008, stands as a reminder of Furman’s downtown history.