Small groups of students approached the stage. A quartet, an ensemble, a duet, solos. Each raised their instruments to their collarbones, let their fingers graze the ivory keys or meet the strings on the bridge of their beloved instruments. And then they played, filling the Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center with their talent, their dedication, and their appreciation for music and for the audience.
"The fulfillment of a dream is today’s theme, and to begin, you must have promise,” said Roberta Rust, professor of piano in Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music. “These musicians have promise and potential. You’ve created an atmosphere and environment that supports continuing that promise and growing their potential.”
She spoke at the bi-annual Friends of the Conservatory of Music Concert and Tea, held Feb. 28, to honor the conservatory’s supporters through special performances featuring hand-selected students, recipients of the donors’ endless support. The Friends of the Conservatory hosts five outreach concerts each year, designed to connect the students with community members who enable their studies through scholarships and other programs that support immediate needs.
Linda Melcer, president of the Friends of the Conservatory, explained that this is what the organization is passionate about. “We love introducing community members to the conservatory and its students. Once they come listen to the music, experience the performances and feel the emotion in the auditorium, they understand and leave wanting to know how and who they can help.”
Melcer has been involved in the Conservatory of Music since her first introduction, over 20 years ago, by Mary Perper, a longtime donor and friend of the university.
“Giving back to our Lynn community, to our students, is very important to me,” Melcer said to conservatory student Trace Johnson as they had their photograph taken together. “A lot of our community members invite students to come to their family dinners. Would you like to join me for a Melcer family dinner?” she offered in all sincerity.
"The fulfillment of a dream is today’s theme, and to begin, you must have promise."
Roberta Rust, professor of piano
Trace '16, currently pursuing his Professional Performance Certificate, gratefully accepted her offer. He’s also grateful for the education he’s afforded because of her support.
He explained, “Lynn has, from the get-go, provided a foundation for me to build a career. Without all the lessons, conversations and different types of instruction and help I’ve received, I’d be very naïve and unprepared for the real world.”
Trace first arrived on campus after a very late decision in November 2013, for a two-and-a-half-hour lesson with Associate Professor of Cello David Cole.
“I came from Wisconsin for an audition in Miami, and a friend asked me to get on the train to visit Lynn. He explained that David Cole would pick me up at the Tri-Rail station. He did, and then we played a very long, really great lesson. At the end, he asked if I’d like to join the conservatory in January, and on the train ride back to Miami, I was so excited. I remember how when he drove me past the Wold, I could only think ‘Gee, what a nice hall!’ and now I play there regularly.”
Performance is a cornerstone of all Conservatory of Music programs. It’s also at the heart of the Friends of the Conservatory’s mission to bring music to new community members and to connect students with their audiences afterward.
Jon Robertson, dean of the Conservatory of Music, addressed the concert’s attendees, “I’d like to thank you, our wonderful supporters, who come to see our students play. We don’t learn to play so well by playing for ourselves. It’s you who help these young people know their efforts and their hard work are worth doing. We continue to be thankful. As you bless us with your support and attention, we hope to continue to bless you with the highest art and performance quality.”
Performance is at the heart of all conservatory programs, and it's central to the mission of the Friends of the Conservatory.
Trace echoes the appreciation. He expects to earn his certificate this year and credits the performance experience he had during his master’s program for opening doors—and boosting his confidence.
“As I won the 2014 Annual Lynn Concerto Competition, the John Oliveira String Competition, becoming a National Society of Arts and Letters scholarship recipient, I saw green flags that told me, ‘You’re on the right path. Don’t stop!’” He paused to reflect before continuing, “The busier I’ve become as a working musician, the more questions I’ve had about what I want to do—and it’s such a privilege to be in a position to decide.”
When asked what he’s looking forward to, Trace’s eyes glimmered, “Lynn helped me find my musical voice and has given me the best experiences possible. I’m forever grateful. And believe it or not, I’m looking forward to having my own apartment and kitchen.”
Although, no doubt. He’s always welcome to a Melcer family dinner.