FLUSHING, NY, December 8, 2011 – Several struggling music students will be able to struggle a little less, thanks to the generosity of the late Beatrice Schacher-Meyer, who left Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music (ACSM) a surprise gift of $1.6 million for student scholarships and other kinds of support.
The music school had no knowledge of this silent admirer who would become its biggest single benefactor. Edward Smaldone, ACSM director, learned about Schacher-Meyer’s benevolence only from the attorney handling her estate. Although the Forest Hills resident preferred not to make herself known in life, she was clearly a big fan of the music school, and conservatories in general—she gave the Juilliard School, a private institution, $400,000.
“Quite possibly over the years she attended some performances here,” said Smaldone. “After all, we learned that she was a professional, card-carrying union musician herself.
“A huge weight lifted when I heard the news,” continued Smaldone, a composer who earned his own undergraduate and graduate degrees in music from ACSM. “State funding for public colleges has been declining, so this gift couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Schacher-Meyer’s generosity goes a long way for the scholarship recipients, undergraduate and graduate music students who exhibited both talent and financial need. Since ACSM charges a modest annual tuition of just over $5,000 for undergraduates and $8,200 for graduate students, scholarships of $2,000 or $3,000 can make an incalculable difference for them, said Smaldone. Besides lowering students’ tuition bills, the funds are also being used to help students in other ways during their time at the school.
By the end of the fall 2011 semester, the fund will have directly impacted nearly 150 music majors. Here are just a few talented musicians who are benefitting:
Miguel Tepale knows exactly where the funds will help him the most: in the acquisition of better instruments and equipment. As a percussionist focusing on the snare drum, xylophone and timpani, Tepale said, “It’s always good to have an assortment of mallets. I only have a mini-bag of sticks.” His wish list also includes an electronic piano. “It would have taken a lot of time to earn that money,” noted Tepale, who was born in Manhattan and raised in Jamaica, Queens. “This frees me to focus on music.” He recently completed a two-year season with the New York Youth Symphony and has participated in a music festival at Northwestern University.
Jin-Xiang “JX” Yu, a Chinese native who grew up in Japan, is pursuing a double major in linguistics and classical voice performance. Active in many Queens College ensembles, from the choir, choral society, vocal jazz ensemble, concert band, percussion ensemble, and new music group to the early music vocal ensemble and chamber music, Jin-Xiang was concerned that family pressures—including the serious illness of her father in Japan and tsunami effects on her family’s employment—would have prevented her from continuing her education. “I was lucky to get this,” she said. “I work a lot, teaching privately, and try to send money home. The scholarship has helped a lot.” Now she can concentrate on taking more artistically demanding courses, like chamber music, to further her ambitions as a soprano. She’s already well on her way, with performances at Merkin Hall in Manhattan, where she premiered the lead role, Kaede, in the Japanese Opera Mumyo and Aizen. She has also performed Steve Reich’s Tehillim under the direction of Brooklyn Philharmonic artistic director Alan Pierson at Le Poisson Rouge and Merkin Hall.
“I’m very grateful to receive this scholarship,” said Gary Garzetta, a bass trombonist originally from Hyde Park, New York. Garzetta holds a BM in music education and performance from the Crane School of Music in upstate Potsdam; at ACSM, he is working on a master’s degree in trombone and performance. The scholarship “gives me the opportunity to devote more time to practice and to getting gigs outside to hone my professional reputation.” he says. Garzetta has already represented the United States as bass trombonist in 2004 at the prestigious Alessi Seminar in Fossano, Italy, and was selected to perform for the Sewanee Summer Music Festival in 2005. Recently he was invited to join the NHKOrchestra (Tokyo) for its northeastern United States tour.
Schacher-Meyer’s serendipitous gift is not limited to scholarships; her donation enabled Queens College music students to travel to China and England this past summer for professional engagements. Smaldone is working on other ways to enhance and extend her legacy. In the meantime, the Black Box theater in the music building will be renamed in her honor.
About The Aaron Copland School of Music:
ACSM offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs that prepares its graduates for a variety of careers in music including performance, teaching or composition. The School also maintains a vital presence in the cultural life of Queens and the greater metropolitan area, offering over 200 annual public concerts and recitals in the Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Concert Hall as well as specialized programs and courses for senior citizens. In addition, ACSM sponsors many collaborations with the public schools; its Lawrence Eisman Center for Preparatory Studies in Music, a pre-college program, serves up to 400 elementary and secondary students each year. For more information on the Aaron Copland School of Music, please visit: http://qcpages.qc.cuny.edu/music/