Let the music play! At UNCG, new scholarship in collaborative piano

Imagine a world without music! For Ruth Heyd ’99 and Stephanie Frazier, that would be unthinkable. 

Music plays continuously most days in their Greensboro home, so when the couple began thinking about where they wanted to designate some substantial gifts, it was natural for them to direct their philanthropy toward the musical arts.

Ruth and Stephanie are proud to establish the Ruth Darling Heyd ’99 and Stephanie Frazier Scholarship Endowment in Collaborative Piano at UNCG’s School of Music with a $600,000 planned gift. It is their hope the scholarship will inspire future students to major in this area.

Ruth’s mother was a 1965 UNC Greensboro graduate in organ performance. Ruth followed in her footsteps and attended UNCG in the 1990s, focusing on piano performance. She was always surrounded by music growing up – her mom taught piano for more than 50 years at their home – and she was fortunate to find a person who loves music as much as she does in her wife, Stephanie. Stephanie plays trumpet, and her mother was in an a cappella women’s group and sang in the church choir.

Reflecting upon their respective college experiences, Ruth and Stephanie agreed that making a difference in students’ lives was important. One area of study at UNCG that Ruth enjoyed most was collaborative piano. She loved playing alongside and being coached by great professors, not to mention the incredible chamber repertoire she learned.

“Ruth Heyd and Stephanie Frazier’s planned gift to the School of Music’s Collaborative Piano program will be transformational in its impact for generations to come, says Dean bruce d. mcclung. “The College of Visual and Performing Arts is very grateful for their generous investment in our College’s mission of transforming lives by providing exceptional artistic and academic experiences.” 

“Collaborative piano” is the term for a field of piano profession where a pianist works in partnership with instrumentalists, singers, dancers, or other artists. Formerly known as “piano accompanying,” which implied “secondary,” the newer term more accurately conveys “teamwork.”

Directed by Dr. James Douglass, the Collaborative Piano Program at UNCG offers professional development at both the MM (master’s) and DMA (doctoral – one of only two offered in the Southeast) levels. Currently there are nine students in the program, allowing Douglass to provide a personal level of attention and focus while developing their critical skills for career advancement. The students represent a broad range of backgrounds and experiences, ranging from those straight out of undergraduate school to doctoral students who have been teaching in various places, such as high schools or universities.

Paraphrasing someone well-known in the world of collaborative piano, Douglass explains, “Part of being successful in this field is learning to be satisfied by living at the edge of the spotlight. However, this doesn’t mean the resources to pursue professional development in our field should be relegated to the edge of the spotlight.”

Having a permanent source of support specifically for the Collaborative Piano Program will be tremendously impactful for several reasons: It will broaden the range of financial offers that can be made to candidates who are qualified for graduate assistantships; it will help stabilize the program’s enrollment with a predictable number of students; and it will acknowledge the Collaborative Piano Program as a critical component of music studies in North Carolina. 

Adds Douglass, “We are incredibly grateful to Ruth Heyd and Stephanie Frazier for this generous gift and their willingness to support a facet of music studies that is often overlooked when it comes to financial support.”

Visual: l-r, Stephanie Frazier and Ruth Heyd ’99