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Pianoforte: strengthening music education

A stately Boston grand piano occupies a place of honor at the center of Eric and Kitty Davises' living room in their home near Middlebury. The piano, in fact music in general, has been central to Kitty Davis' life since she earned a degree in music years ago and went on to teach not only in Vermont public schools, but also privately at home.

Eric Davis has also had a career in education. After earning a PhD at Stanford University in 1978, he joined the faculty at Middlebury College in 1980 and spent more than 25 years in the political science department. However, he is best known as an analyst and commentator on Vermont and national politics, his insights and interviews featured regularly in print and electronic media.

In these ways, the threads running through the Davises' life together include a passion for education and a deep connection to Vermont.

And, of course, there's music; so when the couple, both now retired, considered ways to put some of their assets to work to support their aspirations for the state and their belief in higher learning, creating a scholarship for future music educators came easily to mind. "The intent was to do something to extend college education opportunities in a field that's very important to Kitty," Eric explains. "There's not much support for music education in Vermont right now."

Kitty's interests are quite specific, focused on music study that aims toward education rather than performance. As a result, the Davises chose VSAC's Vermont Scholarship Fund because they felt the program could help them direct their support toward academics.

Kitty feels that she was lucky when she was pursuing her degree; she was raised by an uncle and aunt in Vermont who would have preferred that she choose a more practical profession, but who dutifully wrote the checks to cover her tuition. "I came out not owing a dime," she says, "but my first teaching position was in a district with the lowest pay scale in the state. I can't imagine having had loans, too, and having to cover my groceries each week."

With their new scholarship, which will assist its first recipient in the fall of 2010, they hope to alleviate some of that financial pressure. There's also a broader picture to consider. Eric says, "Giving more Vermonters the opportunity to go as far in their studies as they want to go is important for the state's population and important for Vermont."