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Running of music camp a labor of love for family

John HartCamper Eric Hysell, a junior at Nevada Union High School, plays keyboard at a jazz band rehearsal on Aug. 6.
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The Beatie family of Rough and Ready is made up of doers.

They just prefer to do it behind the scenes.

Ken and Helen Beatie were the impetus for the two-week Donner Mine Music Camp at the family-owned Donner Mine Camp. The family provides facilities for Northern California nonprofit organizations to camp in the Sierra.



Executive director Dan Beatie, son of Ken and Helen Beatie, founded the camp 13 years ago with the help and support of the Sierra College Foundation.

“Being here and hearing everyone play is the highlight of the year for me,” he said.




Dan Beatie’s sister, Karen Wood, a former journalism teacher at University of Pacific, said last week, “You just have to talk to Dr. Robert Halseth, the camp’s concert band conductor, who is known as the best conductor-instructor in the country.”

Bill Hill said the camp wouldn’t exist without the Beatie family’s ongoing generosity. Hill was Sierra College’s director of bands for 12 years before retiring in 1992 and becoming camp co-director.

“The camp would not have started without them. They economically helped the music camp get off the ground 13 years ago. They’ve continued to assist the camp hands-on throughout the year.

“Dan is on the music camp’s board of directors. He puts out a lot of fires of a technical nature during camp, such as making sure lights work, the shade cover stays up and keeping the dust down by driving his water truck. He does the menial stuff.”

Hill credits Dan Beatie’s “wonderful experiences” 30 years ago in the Nevada Union High School choir as the impetus for founding the camp.

Don Baggett, Beatie’s choral teacher at NU, said last week, “You couldn’t ask for a more supportive family for young people than the Beatie family.”

Baggett took his chamber choir to the Donner Mine Camp for several retreats in the 1980s.

“The support started in my experience with Ken and Helen Beatie,” Baggett said. “We had parties at their Rough and Ready ranch. You couldn’t ask for any other family to be more supportive; they were extremely generous with time and money. You can’t say enough about the family.”

Jack Clark, whose daughter Millie married Gordon Beatie, another of Ken and Helen Beatie’s sons, agreed.

“The Beatie family has always supported the community,” said Clark. “The Beatie family goes back four or five generations. Helen Beatie was one of the Arbogast daughters.”

Helen Arbogast was born and raised in Nevada County and attended the old Nevada City High School, graduating in1934. She met Ken Beatie at College of the Pacific, now the University of Pacific, in Stockton. As a music major, Helen went on to conduct church and community choirs in Nevada County; Ken was a business major who went on to run the family business – Tenco Tractor Co., which is today Holt of California, headquartered in Sacramento. Gordon Beatie’s son and daughter are the fourth generation in the family to own the company.

Clark said, “Of course, Ken and Gordon have been active in the Nevada County Fair for a lot of years; they participated through their Tenco Tractor Co. and showed a lot of their equipment at the fair. Gordon Beatie has done a lot for 4-H and for the kids who sell; he always buys one or two steers at the fair auction … They just do things and don’t expect any compliments.”

Ken Beatie’s father, also named Dan Beatie, bought the Zeibright Mine in 1959 and gave it to the Buttes Area Council of the Boy Scouts.

Wood said the family bought it back 10 years later, when Ken Beatie decided to use the facility for nonprofit organizations.

Asked why his family has been so supportive of youth, Ken Beatie said, “Who knows? I can’t give you an answer. I was a Boy Scout all my life,” including being a Scoutmaster for 30 years.

“Heritage, I suppose,” he added.


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