“It is an honor and affirmation that I am on the right path pursuing a career in music,” says undergraduate voice student Grace Renée Pfleger in response to being chosen as this year’s recipient of the highly-coveted Presser Scholarship from the School of Music. “It proves to me that all of my hard work during my time here at UNCSA has paid off and that it shows.”
Presser Award recipients are selected by the School of Music faculty each year, and honor a student who has achieved a high level of academic and musical accomplishment and who embodies the qualities of both leadership and citizenship. Additionally, the faculty must feel that the recipient has grown individually and contributed earnestly to the success of the School of Music.
The scholarship is funded annually from a Presser Foundation grant to a rising undergraduate senior music student. The Presser Foundation is a music philanthropic organization based in Philadelphia that was established in 1939 from Theodore Presser’s estate. The foundation is “one of the few private foundations in the United States dedicated solely to music, music education and music philanthropy.”
A native of Roanoke, Virginia, Pfleger was unsure what her senior year would look like in the middle of a pandemic but so far her expectations have been exceeded. “I give UNCSA and the School of Music so much credit for creating a safe and successful COVID learning environment. I did not expect to be able to sing, perform and learn as much as I did. I am so thankful to my peers for taking the situation seriously and for all of us supporting each other.”
Throughout her time at UNCSA, Pfleger has participated in a number of performances and projects, but says that her favorite is one she is working on right now. “Since the beginning of my time at UNCSA, I have wanted to collaborate with the other arts schools and I am finally doing so. For my senior recital, I am working with the Schools of Filmmaking, Dance and Design & Production to create a really exciting piece of work unlike anything seen before.” Pfleger is excited to share this collaborative project during her senior recital in April 2021.
Outside of the classroom, Pfleger has spent a significant amount of time working with the ArtistCorps community engagement program at UNCSA. “For the past three years, I have been singing for our local isolated, low-income senior population in association with Meals on Wheels. As the volunteers deliver the meals, I bring a boombox with me and deliver a song. The joy and love shared on every route brought me some of my most happy moments at UNCSA. There have been tears, dancing, clapping and lots of laughter.”
Pfleger credits much of her academic and artistic success to several faculty members from the School of Music and the Division of Liberal Arts. “Many professors have pushed me beyond my limits, shown me hidden talents and made me love music more and more every day.” Pfleger includes Glenn Siebert, Dr. Steven LaCosse and Elizabeth Klaimon as faculty members who have been particularly influential.
Pfleger counts Siebert as her voice teacher and personal mentor. “He has helped me come a long way in my vocal and personal development. Thanks to him, I am now truly proud of my sound and who I am as a singer.” LaCosse has been Pfleger’s teacher and director since her freshman year. “He has challenged and pushed me and given me opportunities I never would have thought possible. He has changed the way I perform.” Division of Liberal Arts faculty Klaimon has been an important writing mentor to Pfleger over her four years. “She has shown me a passion for writing I did not know I had and how to write professionally. She showed me that to write well is essential to becoming a successful artist.”
After graduation, and when she can safely travel abroad, Pfleger plans to move to Germany to continue her vocal career. “I plan to spend a few years there singing, performing in operas, studying the language and maturing vocally and personally before I apply to graduate school.”
I have made some of the best friendships of my life here. There is an unexplainable energy and passion at this school.Grace Pfleger
Though she is excited for the next chapter of her life, Pfleger says that more than anything, she will miss the unique and welcoming environment of UNCSA. “I have made some of the best friendships of my life here. There is an unexplainable energy and passion at this school. It is so exciting to think of the successful futures of my classmates and friends. I cannot wait to be able to say, ‘I knew them when.’”
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December 14, 2020