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Fellows making fine music

By Staff | Feb 17, 2012

The Friends of Music proudly presents the first Friends Fellows Benefit Concert at the Frank Center at Shepherd University on Friday, Feb. 24. While many shows are performed on that stage, this benefit concert has multifaceted purposes.

First, the audience will be wowed by the performances of eight individuals offering a variety of entertainment venues. These eight selected students have been chosen as Friends Fellows.

A Fellow is one selected by the Friends of Music to receive a fellowship or scholarship to help with studies within the music department at Shepherd.

According to Friends of Music president Neil Barkus, “The program recognizes leaders in academics and those with special talents. We are really pleased with this program.”

Each of the 2011-12 Fellows were equally pleased with the program. All consider the selection to the group to be a high honor.

Scott Donaldson, a senior vocal performance major, summed it up by saying, “People recognize and notice that you’re working hard and care about what you’re doing.” He went on to say that the monetary award has been helpful to him in paying off some student loans.

The financial benefit, according to several of the students, has been instrumental in allowing them to continue with their education.

Carrie Holter, a junior music education major from Jefferson, Md., shared that she is working two jobs trying to get through her undergraduate program without taking out student loans. A farm girl from rural Maryland does not have much money for college, she said, and the scholarship has been very helpful in her plans to someday teach music.

“You can reach so many kids through music,” she said. In addition to being a Fellow, Holter also participates in the Two Rivers Orchestra, the Shepherd Preparatory Orchestra and Masterworks.

George Ferenz, a sophomore music education major, plays trumpet. He used his Fellowship funding to purchase a new trumpet. Ferenz was familiar with the Fellows program as his sister was a Fellow when she attended Shepherd.

Also using their Fellow awards toward paying off their educational costs are sophomore Nathan Arch who is a piano performance major and VanChessca Allen, a junior music education major.

“I am using part of my financial award to help with books, Allen said. “My mom doesn’t want me to have a job, not that there is time,” she laughed.

Dr. Scott Beard, Dean of Graduate Studies, shared that music majors are very busy. Many of their requirements, whether classes, practices, rehearsals or performances, require them to be on campus for late hours.

While the students put in countless hours on campus, they all have outside interests and opportunities that they pursue. Kristen Monroe, a sophomore music major, explained that she used part of her Fellow award to repair instruments and then travel to some auditions.

“You never know how much of a difference it can make. It could change the whole aspect of what my career could be,” she said as she explained about auditions at various locations.

“Music is something we are all so passionate about,” Allen said. “We want to share that passion and we never know who’s life we may impact.”

In addition to possibly impacting the lives of others, Ross Semler, a junior music education major, explained how his life has been impacted by Shepherd University and its music department as well as the Friends of Music Fellow program.

“This program here gives countless opportunities to the undergraduate student that normally would be given to graduate students at other colleges and universities,” he said.

Each of these eight Fellows will perform in the Feb. 24 benefit concert. Funds raised from the show will go back into the Friends of Music program to continue naming Fellows in the future.

Neal Barkus, FOM president, said, “Part of our program at Friends of Music is to promote student excellence in music. Our support of the Friends Fellows is our way of recognizing the leaders of the future in performance and music education.”

The benefit concert is free to the public; however a suggested donation of $20 is asked to help make future fellowship grants possible. Showtime is at 7:30 p.m. A reception will be held following the performances so that audience members may meet the Fellows.

“The Friends of Music and fellowships they provide allow our music students to take advantage of extraordinary opportunities that they otherwise would not have,” Beard shared.