Gift leaves School of Music singing a happy tune

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Glenn, thank you for the music

An $8 million gift from Glenn Korff creates a permanently endowed fund for the School of Music

Editor’s Note: Sadly, Mr. Korff passed away on Aug. 27. Memorial services are pending.

The news seemed to stun everyone.

Some gasped. One professor was so shocked that she swore out loud.

“That was a funny one, because it came from a colleague who is very scholarly and professional,” said UNL Jazz Studies Coordinator Paul Haar, laughing.

“We just hugged her. It was a complete and total surprise.”

Haar and other faculty and staff members of the UNL School of Music had been asked to gather early at Westbrook before their general meeting to deal with a “housekeeping” issue. (Some wondered if that meant bad news.)

But it was a big announcement instead. When they heard it, they rose to their feet in a standing ovation for a man named Glenn Korff and for his big gift – an $8 million gift that creates a permanently endowed fund to provide annual support for students, faculty and programs within the School of Music:

50 percent will go to the school’s academic and program activities such as support for concerts, recitals, tours, competitions and academic conferences.

25 percent will support students through scholarships, fellowships and international activities.

25 percent will support the school’s faculty through awards for teaching initiatives, research, creative activities, professional travel, while also creating the Glenn Korff Endowed Chair.

In honor of Korff, the school will be named the Glenn Korff School of Music pending the Board of Regents’ approval. (To read more about the gift, and about Glenn Korff, a UNL alumnus from Colorado who passed away Aug. 27, not long after making the gift, please go here.)

The gift will make an impact for years to come, faculty members say – for their school and their students and their state.

“To say that I was overwhelmed and stunned would be the understatement of a lifetime,” said Mark Clinton, a piano professor. “This is something that faculty and administration dream about.”

The arts are often the last thing on the list of things to support and the first to go when times get hard, they say. Yet the arts provide a way for people to express themselves, to participate in the world and reflect on the world.

“People really are changed by art – both as creators and receivers,” said Susan Levine Ourada, head of the school’s dance program.

The arts point out what is beautiful in the world, said Anthony Bushard, an associate professor of music history, “and continually compel us to ask important questions about who we are as humans, what we’re doing here, and where we might be going.”

The news didn’t sink in for Harr, the Jazz Studies guy, until he was driving home later that day and telling his wife about it on his phone. That’s when he realized that this gift will make the ideas and dreams they once thought were not possible, a reality.

“This type of gift places us in a strata of excellence only a few programs in the Big Ten enjoy.”

And what would he have said to Glenn Korff if he had been able to meet him?

Thank you, of course. But he also would have asked him a question:

What’s your favorite tune?

Then he and his jazz colleagues in the UNL School of Music would have played the song for him, “and showed him why he made such a wise investment.”

Faculty Support is a top priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you would like to help amazing faculty members at the University of Nebraska make their ideas and dreams a reality, please give online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.

What UNL School of Music faculty members say about the gift from Glenn Korff:

Jamie Reimer, assistant professor of voice:

“The impact of Mr. Korff’s gift is unparalleled and potentially limitless. The monetary gift will, of course, provide scholarships, program support and other wonderful benefits that I can’t begin to list here. Equally exciting is the energy and enthusiasm among the School of Music community created by such a commitment to it, and I am eagerly anticipating the creativity that will result from it.

Tony Bushard, associate professor of music history:

“As one of the newer members of the Big Ten, it says we are serious about being leaders in the national and international discussions of music and the arts. It will undoubtedly help in recruiting and gives us an advantage when competing with major universities outside of the Big Ten as well.”

Mark Clinton, professor of piano:

“I was completely overwhelmed. A gift of this magnitude and importance takes our School of Music to an entirely different level.”

Paul Haar, saxophone professor and Jazz Studies coordinator:

“It places us in the company of the finest programs in the nation. It shows the world that we are of the highest echelon of what we do.”

Susan Levine Ourada, head of the dance program:

“Thank you, sir, for believing in the power of music and dance to make a difference in the lives of students from Nebraska and beyond.”

Glenn Nierman, Steinhart professor and associate director of the School of Music:

“This gift will be truly transforming for faculty and students – perhaps more students will be able to travel to performance competitions; perhaps faculty will be able to have seed money to plan and pursue large grants for their research and performance agendas. “The hard sciences have numerous grant opportunities from foundations and from the federal government. Not so in the arts. This gift will enable musicians to pursue their research and creative dreams!”

Jonah Sirota, assistant professor and violist of the Chiara String Quartet:

“It was very unexpected and very, very welcome. My immediate thought was about being able to give more scholarships to deserving students. “The Glenn Korff School of Music will join the short list of named music schools in the country (there are presently two in the Big Ten, and they are storied, prestigious programs). This can only draw more attention to the great achievements of my colleagues on the faculty, and especially our students. This will also be a tremendous help in our efforts to recruit the most gifted music students from around the country, and from around the world.”

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