Ten years later, the Stutzman Family Foundation is still transforming lives.
In January 2016 Candace Naude, ‘20, was sitting in the audience of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening when she had an awakening of her own. “I realized that I have to pursue music,” Naude says. “I couldn’t escape it anymore.”
Naude had been passionate about music her entire life but had been discouraged from making a career of it.
“Music wasn’t one of the hiring industries, and everyone told me it would be so hard for me to find a job and make a living,” Naude says. “Unfortunately I listened to them, and decided to join the Army. I enlisted immediately after high school and spent four years in the military. In 2014 I was honorably discharged and moved back home to Trumbull.” Money was tight, but Naude enrolled in the music program at Southern.
“I didn’t care if I couldn’t find a job or make an easy living,” Naude says. “I needed to make music.”
An epiphany that calls one back to music is something Walter Stutzman, adjunct faculty member with Southern’s Department of Music, can relate to. Shaken by 9-11 — he was across the street from the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the attacks occurred — he retired from 30 years of software consulting and came to Southern shortly afterwards to earn a BA in Music.
“My life was transformed through the music I studied and performed and was further changed when I joined [Southern’s] music faculty in 2009,” Stutzman says. He found the experience so transformative, he sought to help other students fulfill their dreams. As a trustee of the Stutzman Family Foundation, which was established by his parents, Geraldine and Jacob Stutzman, shortly before their deaths in the mid-2000s, Stutzman has helped make the music program at Southern one of the best.
“He has transformed the entire program,” says Craig Hlavac, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at Southern. “Music students are studying with professionals in the area, so they’re learning the ropes from these folks and the business aspects as well.”
Mani Mirzaee, ‘14, a composer, educator, pianist, setar and tar performer, experienced that first-hand.
“The care and kindness the music faculty showed gave me the confidence to pursue music as a career, and the Stutzman Foundation truly enabled the faculty to provide the student body with the attention and care they had to give,” Mirzaee says. “The Stutzman Foundation elevated the capacity the faculty had within the music department. Practice rooms, computers, enhanced digital audio work-stations and many other amazing amenities were provided for the students.”
This evolving technology has helped keep the music curriculum relevant — and to attract students interested in the technological side of the field.
“You can have a career in this, and that’s why our degree looks different than most,” Hlavac says. “We have classes in music technology, for example. With other schools, their curriculum may look the same as it did 50 years ago. We’ve adapted. And with Stutzman’s background in IT, he saw this and helped us to build a music studio, which allows us to train students in music technologies. The entire landscape of music has changed, from CDs to YouTube, and we’re right on pace.”
The cutting-edge technology appealed to musicians like Terri Lane, ‘08, who has been in the music business as a professional singer for years. (Similar to Stutzman and Naude, Lane had an epiphany and left a successful 20-year career in the fields of energy efficiency, sales, and marketing to pursue music.)
“When I researched schools, the SCSU professors impressed me school-wide,” says Lane. “The curriculum was so updated. The teachers were performers too and that means they’re continually improving themselves and not stagnant. It was the only school I applied to, and the first day I knew I’d made the right decision. The emphasis on technology gives everyone access to music and music production.”
Access is a crucial component to the Stutzman Family Foundation’s mission. In addition to revamping the program itself, the Stutzman Family Foundation offers the Stutzman Family Foundation Music Scholarship(s) and the Southern Applied Music Program, which provides free weekly voice or instrument lessons.
Those free lessons immediately stood out to Naude. “Most, if not all, schools charge their students for music lessons,” Naude says. “It was remarkable to me that it wouldn’t cost me a dime. The lessons completely changed my life. I always considered myself as a pretty good singer, but never before have I been pushed so far to discover what I am truly capable of. I have learned to be more confident, have better stage presence, learn more languages (a lot of classical pieces are German and French), and access so many different parts of my voice that I didn’t even know I had. I have essentially become a more improved version of myself.”
International choir trips, available at a discounted price thanks to the Stutzman Foundation and taken with the University Choir, also enable students to improve their skills. This year, the choir is visiting Rome, Tuscany (Florence), and Venice and will sing Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Basilica of St. Anthony.
“For students that have been in the choir consecutively since they’ve attended Southern,” says Naude, “the foundation actually pays for the entire trip, apart from a $500 charge to the student. I was able to travel with the choir to Portugal. I am so appreciative for what [the Stutzmans] have done for the musicians of Southern.”
Mirzaee, too, is quick to express his gratitude.
“What sets Professor Stutzman apart from other human beings is not his philanthropic activities, but his eagerness to partake in the act of enabling others as a teacher and a mentor,” Marzaee says. “Over the years as a student and now a teacher, I have come to the conclusion that we can surpass any hurdle in life if we have someone that enables us to believe in ourselves. Ten years ago, as I was dreaming about my future at Southern, moving forward inch by inch and hoping to get to the next level of my musical career and educational step. I am forever grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to dream and move forward.”
If you are wondering if the music field is right for you, perhaps your epiphany is soon to come. If you’re growing restless, though, perhaps the aphorism Stutzman uses when he begins his Music Survey class may ring true:
“Music in the ears. Listen with open ears and an open mind: There are many musics around the world that are worthy of your careful listening. Music in the head. Knowing what’s inside music (its structures) and how it developed into what we hear today is important. Music in the hands. Practice! One of my teachers at Southern used to say, ‘Music is the only major where you finish your homework and then have to practice.’ Music in the heart. Know your goals, talk to musicians who have achieved those goals, have a plan, and always keep whatever music is important to you in your heart.”