A Grandmothers Gift

A Grandmothers Gift

I took dance and art lessons, always had an interesting book to read, and listened to symphony music on records that we played in the afternoons on our record player. I learned early on to value music and how to use it to create good moods and reach my inner soul. It was soothing and inspiring to play the piano. I started with scales, then pieces from musical theater, and progressed to jazz and Broadway show tunes.

Because my parents exposed me to the piano, in college I started to attend symphonies and pay attention to the serious pianists of that time period. I took a music appreciation course and listened to the major symphonies written by famous composers: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, Haydn, and Tchaikovsky. If my grandmother hadn't valued the education that fine arts can teach and inspired me to participate in them, my life would have been narrow and one-dimensional. I probably wouldn't have taken up writing or learned to use my imagination and creative talents.

students with their grandmother

I became aware that UVU was about to become an All-Steinway School in 2010. It piqued my interest in the music department. I knew that other universities in Utah had started piano competitions and had great music departments. Someone told me that a renowned young pianist, Hilary Demske, had just been hired to the UVU faculty, bringing an incredible résumé and wealth of talent. I knew the great reputation of Donna Fairbanks, the music department chair. It occurred to me that with all the talented music professors UVU possesses, why not start a student competition and encourage the best piano students to apply and offer a generous endowed scholarship to them?

piano performance contestants

So, in 2010, I established a scholarship that allows UVU piano performance majors to compete against each other for tuition and books. The first scholarship was awarded last April, and several students competed. It was such a joyful and fulfilling experience for me to watch the excitement of those talented piano students getting into the spirit of the competition to better their musical ability. Each student had practiced for weeks and did a wonderful video explaining their motivations for their music. The UVU library auditorium was filled to capacity last April. A great start.

Next year, I expect that the number of piano performance majors who participate in the competition will double. Who knows — the competition could become more prestigious in years to come and could mushroom into a large piano festival that includes piano majors from all the state universities in Utah.

As you can tell by now, I am a huge proponent of liberal arts education in a university setting. Those majors stretch the creative spirit and speak to the soul. They develop sensitivity to individual perception and high imagination. It might appear that other majors are more career-focused, but creative skills are among the most sought-after in the world today. It is important for students to be educated about the potential of their feelings and how to harness their creative nature and learn discipline.

The arts — including poetry, drama, dance, music — teach a student how to think and feel. These disciplines take students to new frontiers of expression, and they have a marvelous learning experience in the process. Arts are a great complement to a science or technology education. I have a special passion for the expressive areas of learning and believe in the development of those gifts. If anyone doubts the value of a liberal arts major, take away music, art, dance and literature from a university, and there will be left a stark and lonely campus. I believe that music is the heart and soul of a university.