When you’re surrounded by fantastic musicians, being singled out as top in your class can be overwhelming.
“Sometimes I feel awkward accepting this because my peers are outstanding. I learn so much from each of them every day,” says Jordan Pyle.
That’s just what happened as the academic year came to a close for the sophomore, along with senior Robbie Erhard, junior Chas Douthit and freshman David Leech—this year’s Outstanding Students, chosen by their professors. Each student will receive a one-year foundation scholarship in recognition of the accomplishment.
To be eligible for the award, students have to be on track to graduate with honors (i.e., 3.7 cumulative grade point average or higher), but it’s about more than grades. “These students have demonstrated academic excellence, music excellence in terms of accomplishments in the applied studio and ensembles, and an emerging record of service and/or leadership,” says Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Jim Austin.
This year, 92 undergraduates fit the bill and made it onto the ballot—an accomplishment in itself. “So receiving the award is a very meaningful recognition of our students, given the breadth and depth of excellence that permeates the undergraduate student community,” Austin adds.
The students themselves say it’s also a sign they’re on the right track in the eyes of the faculty. “I was thrilled to hear I was receiving this honor. It feels like a solid smile and nod of encouragement from the faculty,” says Chas Douthit.
The Outstanding Junior also receives a scholarship from the Presser Foundation and will serve as the Presser Scholar for his senior year. Douthit, who will put that scholarship toward his major in music education with an emphasis in choral music, has played roles in a number of Eklund Opera Program performances, including Pirates of Penzance and L’incoronazione di Poppea. He also works for the CU-Boulder School of Education as a learning assistant.
“My work is a composite of all the great teachers, family and friends who collaborate with me and I am grateful for them all,” he says.
Jordan Pyle won the award last year as a freshman. The oboe performance major is a member of the CU Symphony Orchestra and Wind Symphony, and performs with several other smaller ensembles. For her, the recognition carries with it some responsibility in addition to the honor.
“I am happy to be able to represent such an amazing school, and I hope to give back to this community what my peers and mentors have given me,” she says.
Pyle’s summer plans include conducting research on German Lieder with music theory professor Kris Shaffer, thanks to an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) grant.
Freshman clarinet performance major David Leech is a member of the Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band. He says the award makes the work he’s done so far well worth it—and it makes him excited for the next three years. “It’s really validating to know that I have the support of the faculty,” he says. Leech adds, the highlight of his freshman year was playing in the pit orchestra for the opera Così fan tutte.
Robbie Erhard, who graduates with a degree in cello performance this spring, won the Outstanding Student award his freshman and junior years, as well. He says this is a great capper to four rewarding and challenging years. “I’m honored, especially knowing how hard-working and talented my classmates are.”
Erhard plays in the Symphony Orchestra and the Early Music Ensemble. His next move is to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where he’ll pursue his master’s in cello performance.
Erhard will be recognized and deliver a speech at the College of Music commencement ceremonies on May 8. The others will be recognized at the Scholarship Celebration in the fall.