Eric Ellis is a freshman from Sandwich, Illinois, about 60 miles straight west of Chicago, and his graduating high school class numbered 180.
Ellis is a music major attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison in part thanks to a merit scholarship from the School of Music Alumni Association. Clarinet is his main instrument, and he doubles on trumpet with the UW Marching Band.
“It’s kind of a large jump from (Sandwich) to here, but I like it,” he said. “I knew UW-Madison had a good music program. When I came here to visit, I was just in awe of the campus. I thought, ‘I love this. I have to live here.’”
The School of Music Alumni Association (SOMAA) established its scholarship fund in 2002 in conjunction with the UW Foundation to assist the School in recruiting the finest freshmen talent. From 2003 to 2010, SOMAA has provided $52,000 to the School of Music. This was matched by the UW Foundation for a total of $104,000.
In 2011, the SOMAA/UWF scholarship funds will provide $16,000 for two incoming freshmen with four-year scholarships of $8,000 each. That will bring the total to $120,000 in scholarships provided to the music students over nine years. Starting with the 2010-2011 academic year, eight music students are on SOMAA scholarships, and more than 450 people have made gifts to the fund.
“The scholarship is one of the things that brought me here,” Ellis said. “At first, I was thinking, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to afford UW-Madison,’ but after I got assistance from the School of Music and this scholarship, I thought, ‘OK, it’s doable now.’”
Daniel Kim from St. Paul, Minnesota, is a senior who plays viola and had many options for higher education upon leaving high school. The SOMAA Scholarship helped make up his mind.
“This scholarship made it clear that I would come to UW-Madison,” he said. “It’s a great institution, and this scholarship beat out what I was offered from anyone else. Donors make it possible for UW-Madison to get all the great talent that we have. Without them, this institution doesn’t happen, at least not the way it does today.”
Alice Bartsch from Bloomington, Minnesota, is a freshman violinist who grew up in the same musical community that Kim did, and the two have known each other since childhood.
“I was thinking about a few different schools, including a couple of conservatories,” she said. “I was looking forward to a well-rounded education, and I knew I could get that here at UW-Madison. I want to thank the donors for making it possible for me to attend UW-Madison. It’s so great to come to this town and be accepted as an artist, and to be financially able to go to school here.”
That sentiment is echoed by Ellis.
“I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to the donors, because without them, I might not be here right now,” he said. “Because of them, I’m here experiencing everything the University has to offer.”