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It’s a word my mother would frequently use. In my childhood mind it ranked right up there with flabbergasted and aghast with, maybe, a little agog thrown in.
Whatever they all mean, in my mind they are descriptive of what I’m feeling today.
One of the hats I wear in my travels around the sun is as the chairperson of the North State Symphony League’s Scholarship Awards Committee. We award two, $500 scholarships each year. One is designated for a graduating senior and one is designated for a matriculated college student.
All sounds well and good, right? An important thing to do in the community, right? Support the arts. Support the kids. Support the symphony.
Except . . . . Except . . . .
We have very few to none applicants.
What is going on? Is not $500 a fairly significant amount, especially when it’s a gift? Are kids and their families so well off that this amount does not seem like it’s worth the trouble? Are the requirements for application too difficult?
Please. All that is required of the student is that he/she:
- Fill out the application (a half page consisting of addresses and phone numbers)
- Write a 300 – 500 (that’s one type-written page, folks) -word essay outlining their interest in music and how they plan to use it in their lives.
- A letter of recommendation from a music teacher, either private or public school
The first of February we sent out nearly 40 letters to every high school and college music teacher in the eight northern counties asking them to have eligible students apply for this scholarship. The deadline for submission this year was March 15.
And herein lies one of the hitches.
I know things get hectic for music teachers in the spring. There are festivals for which to prepare their students and ensembles. There are statewide adjudications where each student is graded on their solo performances. There are spring concerts and musicals. There’s information coming in about summer teacher workshops as well as student camps and workshops. I get it. I know. I’ve been there. It’s so easy to look at the notice from the league and say, “Oh, there are a couple of my students who should apply …” Then it gets tossed on the teacher’s desk and buried under the mounds of scores and sheet music and grade sheets. . . etc., etc.
The other hitch is that we require a teacher recommendation. This doesn’t have to be complicated; just a sentence or two saying why a teacher thinks this student is competent and deserving of the scholarship. But again, in the hectic lives of the music teacher, this crucial step may get lost and a student is frequently reluctant to approach the teacher for yet the fourth or fifth of sixth time to request a letter.
So, we face the 2019-’20 school year with very little response.
The result: We received two high school applications, and not one from any of the colleges.
We are working on streamlining our application process and we are going to endeavor to do a better job of publicizing the availability of the scholarship. We plan to have flyers that teachers can post in the music hallways. We also hope to develop an online presence containing contact information and the ability to apply for the scholarship online. Because, when it comes right down to it, there is many a slip-up in the teacher mail room . . . depending on which student aide may be distributing the mail on any given day.
We are open to any and all suggestions. But until then . . .
Like I said in the title. . . color me flummoxed!