College of Music Gala raises $52,000 for student scholarships

Claudia Taylor

When UNT vocal performance graduate student Chaazi Munyanya was applying for graduate school, her top priority was finding an outstanding faculty mentor. With acceptance letters from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and the University of Southern California, and auditions scheduled at the Manhattan School of Music and Indiana University, Munyanya auditioned at UNT on the advice of the music chair at Colorado State, where she earned her undergraduate degree.

As part of her UNT audition, she took two lessons with Regents Professor of Voice Linda Di Fiore. The experience cemented UNT as her only choice.

“I canceled my other auditions because those lessons with Dr. Di Fiore were amazing. I knew right away I wanted to study with her,” she said. “I feel that there are parts of myself I can only express through classical singing. The College of Music is helping me reach my full potential through the individual attention and training I receive here.”

Munyanya — who earned UNT’s top scholarship for vocalists, the Margot Winspear Opera Scholarship — performed Oct. 13 along with fellow students, faculty and alumni vocal soloists at the 2013 College of Music Gala, which raised just over $52,000 for student scholarships, an increase of more than $10,000 over last year.

“This year, thanks to the generosity of dozens of donors, the college was able to provide scholarships to one-third of all students enrolled,” said Raymond Rowell, assistant dean of scholarship services and external affairs in UNT’s College of Music.

He said the college’s endowment has seen tremendous growth, from $6.2 million in 2003 to $16.5 million in 2012.

“The gala concert is the public face of an effort that continues year round, ensuring we have the funds necessary to compete with the world’s colleges, universities and conservatories to bring the very best young musicians and scholars to study in Denton,” Rowell said.

The gala, themed “The Theatre of Debauchery, Deception and Delight,” featured song selections from opera and musical theater, including Bizet’s Carmen, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and Verdi’s La Traviata. Director of Orchestral Studies David Itkin led the UNT Symphony Orchestra and the University Singers, while Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren K. Woods served as guest master of ceremonies for the concert.

UNT College of Music Dean James Scott said the gala is a way to show donors the growth and achievement students can accomplish with their help.

“Our annual gala brings together in a single concert many of our finest student performers, providing a powerful demonstration that adequate financial support can make it possible for a stunning level of talented students to attend UNT,” he said. “Our most central needs relate to students, and making it financially possible for them to attend. Then, in addition to providing for the best faculty possible for their guidance, we need to provide those special opportunities that enhance their progress through their degree programs, such as visiting artists and scholars, ensemble tours and support for travel to conferences and competitions.”

Munyanya, who will next perform in the college’s Music of the Kennedy White House program Nov. 3 in Dallas, says the scholarship she received will help her fulfill her potential as a performer.

“Winning this scholarship has helped me realize that if you believe in yourself and are diligent in your work, people around you will begin to believe in what you have to offer as well,” she said. “We all put so much work into our music, and whether or not we receive a scholarship, we are all worthy of pursuing our dreams.”


Above, UNT vocal performance graduate student Chaazi Munyanya performs during the gala Oct. 13.