Published: Oct. 7, 2015 By

Celebrating music students and supporters

Students, faculty, donors and staff gather for the College of Music Scholarship Celebration and Dinner.

The support they receive from local music lovers helps them record albums, find their voice—even achieve their dream of bringing a new kind of musical study to their home country. But above all, scholarships and other support from College of Music donors help our students do what many of them came many miles to do: study music in Boulder.

On Monday, Oct. 5, that important role and the accomplishments of more than 350 College of Music students were recognized at the annual Scholarship Celebration and Dinner. Seated alongside donors, students enjoyed dinner and conversation in the Glenn Miller Ballroom at the University Memorial Center, getting to know the men and women who helped make their education possible. 

In front of a capacity crowd of 475 guests, Dean Robert Shay, undergraduate student Charles Douthit, graduate student Michael Hoffman, Adopt-a-Student co-founders Bob Charles and Barbara Brenton, and Associate Professor of Flute Christina Jennings gave brief speeches about the impact of scholarships; the Altius Quartet and the Opera Theater Singers also performed.

Donor Marion Thurnauer’s parents, Hans and Dolores Thurnauer, established the NORIS Graduate Student Awards in Music. She attended the dinner to represent her parents’ fund and the scholarship in her father’s name, which is supported by the SeiSolo Foundation. Thurnauer says the evening is just the beginning of a longer relationship with the students. “It’s wonderful to see how they progress. We attend their recitals and other performances throughout their time here,” she says. “It’s important to us to support them, but it’s also important for Boulder to have these arts resources. 

“CU adds a vibrant element to the arts, and our local organizations have access to wonderful students and faculty to perform with their groups.” Thurnauer and her husband, Alexander Trifunac, also support the Takács Society and the Adopt-a-Student program.

The feeling of mutual gratitude threaded throughout the evening is not one these students, donors or faculty take for granted. Scholarships help bring the best student musicians to Boulder-area audiences, and they give those students the ability to focus full time on becoming better performers.

“It’s helping cover my bills so I don’t have to get an extra job,” says DMA piano student Maria Kurchevskaya, who received the Adopt-a-Student scholarship from Thurnauer and Trifunac. “I’m so grateful for that. I can get by with just my TA duties.” Kurchevskaya, who’s from Russia originally, says since arriving in America she’s been lucky to know several generous people like Thurnauer. While studying in Houston, she says she became almost a daughter to her host family, who introduced her to the family she’s currently staying with in Longmont.

Similarly, junior Jessica Beal credits her award, the Katherine Ann Suber Whiton Memorial Scholarship in Double Bass, with helping her keep up with a double major. “That’s why I came here, because I could study double bass and mechanical engineering,” says Beal. “The studio and Dr. [Paul] Erhard are very supportive of that, and because of the help paying for fees, especially as an out-of-state student, I’m able to balance two demanding majors.”

For Beal, her music studies are complementary to her engineering studies. “You don’t learn presentation skills any other way,” she says. “Self-discipline, time-management skills, professionalism, how to interact with people. That’s what you learn beyond the music.” Beal hopes to do work with prosthetics for musicians who play bowed instruments.

The cross-disciplinary nature of music is also a reality for sophomore vocal performance major Rebecca Ramsey. She could see herself someday combining vocal pedagogy and speech pathology. “[Music Advisory Board Co-Chair] Becky Roser recommended I get in touch with the speech department to pursue that,” says Ramsey. “It’s really interesting to me to have that kind of medical background and then to practice what I’m learning when I sing, or work with other singers.” Ramsey received the Adopt-a-Student scholarship from Barbara Brenton.

“When I was here for my audition, I fell in love with the beautiful campus and the faculty. They care about the students who come here, and are really invested in us. I couldn’t be here if it weren’t for my scholarship,” says Ramsey.

NORIS Graduate Student Award winner Kellen Toohey will focus this year on releasing his first CD. The clarinet performance and pedagogy DMA student started off as a local fan of the College of Music, attending recitals as a child while studying the clarinet in Boulder.

“I’m so thankful for my scholarship because it’s allowing me to finish my degree while working on recording,” says Toohey. “I just commissioned some pieces from a couple of alumni, and hope to release a CD around the time I graduate in the spring.”

In the case of Cecelia Kao, her award, the Hans Thurnauer Scholarship, is helping her continue an important mission. From Taiwan originally, Kao was the first person in her country to graduate with a master’s degree in collaborative piano. From there, she came to the United States to be a part of more trailblazing collaborative piano programs—like the one in Boulder.

“I did my second master’s with Anne Epperson at the University of Texas at Austin. She started the collaborative piano program at CU-Boulder,” Kao explains. “Then, after I completed that degree, I came here for my DMA to study with Margaret McDonald, who was a student of Anne’s as well.

“I’ve been so lucky to work with these pioneers. My dream is to have my own collaborative piano program, since so many schools still don’t have one. If there’s a chance to go back to Taiwan and teach students there, I would be thrilled to do that.”

These, and countless other opportunities created by the generosity of College of Music donors, were the cause for celebration at the scholarship dinner. In addressing attendees, Dean Shay said donors make it possible for the college to “leverage the excellent and transformative education our faculty provide.” Private supporters donated more than $900,000 this year.