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USC music professor increases campaign gift to $10 million

Alice Schoenfeld enters her name in the roster of Widney Society members at the organization's inaugural dinner last year. The society recognizes donors who have made gifts totaling $1 million or more to USC. (Photo/Steve Cohn)

Longtime violin professor Alice Schoenfeld of the USC Thornton School of Music has increased her campaign gift to the school by $7 million to establish the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Endowed Scholarship Fund for Strings Students.

The new campaign commitment follows a $3 million commitment Schoenfeld made in October to renovate the school’s main symphonic rehearsal space for student-musicians. Her total campaign gift is the largest ever made to USC by a longtime faculty member.

Schoenfeld, holder of the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Endowed Chair in String Instruction, has directed that the new gift be used for scholarships in her name and that of her sister, Eleonore, a longtime professor of cello at USC Thornton who died in 2007.

“Alice Schoenfeld’s new commitment to establish a scholarship fund for string musicians at USC Thornton reflects her profound dedication to her students,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “Her students have gone on to brilliant careers in orchestras around the world, creating a legacy of excellence that will grow in perpetuity thanks to her generous gift. This scholarship fund will further enhance USC Thornton’s ability to attract the finest students, regardless of their financial circumstances, and ensure that new generations of aspiring musicians receive a first-rate music education at USC.”

As the Schoenfeld Duo, the sisters were internationally renowned classical performers who toured the world’s great music halls for decades. Between them, they taught for more than a century at USC Thornton, and Alice Schoenfeld continues to instruct violin students.

Alice Schoenfeld’s $10 million donation is second in size only to the school’s naming gift in 1999 from philanthropist Flora Thornton. Schoenfeld’s contribution serves as the lead gift in USC Thornton’s $75 million fundraising initiative that kicked off on Feb. 22.

The initiative is part of The Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multiyear effort to secure $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand the university’s positive impact on the community and world.

USC Thornton Dean Robert A. Cutietta said that competition to recruit music students of the highest caliber is fierce, and he noted that many of USC Thornton’s peer institutions offer attractive scholarships that extend well beyond traditional financial aid or merit-based packages.

“To be truly competitive, music scholarships must go above and beyond usual support to provide benefits, such as artistic and scholarly projects, tours and travel to national and international festivals and competitions,” Cutietta said.  “Alice, as a teacher and performer, knows this well. Her generosity will ensure that USC Thornton continues to attract and support strings students of extraordinary talent and potential.”

Schoenfeld said she hopes her gift will allow future students to focus even more of their time and energy on study and practice.

“True excellence in performance requires long hours, and the more support students can receive, the more they will able to excel,” she said. “Performance and competition opportunities around the globe are invaluable in honing their craft and teaching them about the demands of a professional life.”

With 74 students, USC Thornton’s strings department has a rich history. Its past faculty includes such legendary performers and teachers as violinist Jascha Heifetz, cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and violist William Primrose. The current department chair is Midori Goto, world-renowned performer and holder of the Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin.

Other department professors holding chairs include Schoenfeld; Ralph Kirshbaum, holder of the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Violoncello; and violinist Glenn Dicterow, holder of the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music, who will join USC in the fall.

The highly regarded USC Thornton Symphony, USC Thornton Chamber Orchestra and many chamber ensembles offer professional-level experience for strings students.

In a nod to the instruments played by Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld, the new scholarship fund will support violin and cello students.

Alice Schoenfeld’s October campaign commitment of $3 million created the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Symphonic Hall, a 3,700-square-foot space on the University Park Campus that serves as the main symphonic rehearsal hall for USC Thornton’s student-musicians.

The facility was redesigned with the aid of an acoustician and has complete audio- and video-recording capabilities, as well as new lighting and suspended flooring for sound isolation.

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USC music professor increases campaign gift to $10 million

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