Since Roy Sutton started the music scholarship program at Mountain Meadows 11 years ago, raising funds from fellow members of the retirement community, he’s raised $60,000 to pay most of the tuition at Southern Oregon University for two women to graduate and become noted performers and teachers in flute and clarinet — and another who will begin her music studies in higher education.
The first scholarship recipient, Lisa Nichols, graduated in flute in 2012, performs in chamber music groups, taught in schools all over the Rogue Valley, has 15 private students and performs in Camelot Theatre’s upcoming production of “Oliver.”
Clara Haptonstall, an Ashland High School graduate, got her SOU degree this year in clarinet. And soprano Carly King, from Redmond, a freshman, was just named winner of Mountain Meadows’ third $20,000 scholarship.
“This very generous scholarship really turned the tables and made it so I was able to come here. I love it so much at SOU,” said Nichols. “It’s such a great place to learn. All the professors know me. The Mountain Meadows people are the most positive, educated, encouraging people you’d ever want to meet. Fifty people gave money, and at first I was terrified to do concerts in front of them, but it’s been great.”
The unique aspect is that the scholarship, Nichols noted, is “given by many people, kind of crowd-funded, and it’s not anonymous, and I got to meet all the people who gave to the scholarship.”
The scholarships are literally life-changing, Sutton said. “Clara said she is the only musician ever in her family, and there’s no way she could have continued with the clarinet without the scholarship.”
Applicants must audition before the faculty, which selects recipients, to show they’ve established mastery, and they have to keep their grade-point average high to get the $5,000 each year. Students readily pay back with service to youth.
Sutton diverts money he raises to the nonprofit Chamber Music Concerts, which is affiliated with the SOU Foundation. In addition to administering the Mountain Meadows donations, CMC fundraises for its own scholarship program. They both started in 2007, with Mountain Meadows having raised $60,000 from 112 families, and Chamber Music Concerts raising $160,000 from 125 families, said CMC Executive Director Jody Schmidt.
“With these scholarships, they can go to college and study their music full-time instead of having to work a job,” said Schmidt. “A lot of our students on these scholarships just can’t do it without the money.”
“The scholarship opened the door for me having a music career,” King said, “because I was very nervous about falling into debt. This solidified it for me to pursue my passion for music.”
King added that, with the financial support, she is able to practice four to five hours a day in rooms of the Music Building and “further my knowledge of music theory.”
Her dream began as a child when her grandmother drove her to school with the radio blasting rock music and King singing along. King’s grandma guided her into the Youth Choir of Central Oregon, “which was crucial in the development of my music and of me as a person.”
In high school, she said, she sang in the concert choir and helped teach chorale to younger students.
Nichols got her start in a summer reading program where the prize was a recorder, then her dad found a recorder book at a yard sale, and “I thought I’d never done anything that fun in my life.” She mastered it, and in the fourth grade she started in flute.
Last summer the Friends of the Medford Library hired Nichols to teach recorder classes at all 15 county libraries. She also taught teachers in area schools through the Rogue Valley Outreach Program, teaching in three classrooms every week for a year, then students got to participate on recorders with the orchestra.
“This all came from the scholarship, and now everything I do professionally is related to music,” Nichols said.
Sutton got the idea for the scholarships while filing out of a Jefferson State Chorale Coalition concert as the conductor, Kirby Shaw, encouraged people to drop money and checks in a scholarship jar at the door so there could be future musicians in the valley, but few did.
“The philosophy (of the senior community) back then was ‘aging in place,’ but I thought ‘aging in community’ was better, and then I thought, ‘Why not living in community?’ And with this fund, that’s what we’re doing,” said Sutton, who calls himself the impresario of concerts at Mountain Meadows.
He said members of the fund tend to have extensive education and appreciation of fine music, donate $100 or $200 per year and love the twice-monthly concerts called Music at the Meadows — resident-initiated live music performances by local musicians, many of them music majors at SOU. They perform classical, pop, jazz and show tunes.
Sutton said he makes his fundraising appeals with the quote, “Music is eternal! It is the footsteps that you leave behind on this dusty road that we travel. Leave a sweet sound behind!”
Both scholarships are administered by Chamber Music Concerts. To make tax-deductible contributions to either scholarship, go to chambermusicconcerts.org or call Schmidt at 541-552-6154.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.