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Music to TC Students' Ears

A generous scholarship bequest from alumna Lydia Morrongiello will extend the legacy of her TC mentor, Robert Pace

A generous scholarship bequest from alumna Lydia Morrongiello will extend the legacy of her TC mentor, Robert Pace.

Long before the late Robert Pace became known for revolutionizing music study throughout the world, he was Lydia Morrongiello’s private piano teacher.

Now through the Lydia Morrongiello Endowed Scholarship Fund for Music Education, Dr. Morrongiello (Ed.D. ’75, M.A.’64) is ensuring that future TC music students will benefit from Dr. Pace’s legacy. 

Pace, who would serve for decades as Chair of TC’s Music & Music Education program, emphasized the musical literacy and creativity of each student, with the goal of creating independent learners and lifelong lovers of music. He certainly did that for Morrongiello, who credits him with igniting her musical talent and inspiring her subsequent 30-year teaching career.

Morrongiello studied piano with Pace while she was in high school. He prepared her so well that during her undergraduate studies at SUNY Potsdam, she passed all her piano technical requirements in her freshman year.  After Potsdam, where she studied to become a K-12 teacher, she decided to pursue advanced studies in music education. Though she was accepted at two other prestigious graduate programs, her choice was simple. She followed Pace to TC, even though the tuition was significantly higher. “This is the faculty who had the most dramatic influence on my life,” she says of her decision. She remembers the range of TC professorial talent, all notables in their fields, who specifically exposed her to opera, jazz, conducting and musicology.   

Holding down three jobs to pay for her studies including teaching at The Juilliard School and summers at the Aspen Music School, made the experience even more precious. “When you have to pay every cent for your courses, you really value the educational experience.” When she decided to pursue a doctorate at TC, she was thrilled to receive a full scholarship and fellowship, provided by an anonymous donor.

Morrongiello continued to channel Pace after leaving TC. During her three decades of teaching music and humanities courses and directing choruses at Garden City High School in Garden City, New York, Morrongiello always took her students out into the real world of music. She held subscriptions for them to the Metropolitan Opera.  Her students were selected to perform live at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and Radio City Music Hall. Graduates who passed through her classrooms have gone on to pursue music at all levels including music educators, composers, opera singers, concert pianists and organists. “I passed on what Dr. Pace taught me about building a lifetime of appreciation and skill that keeps music in your life, if not in your career,” she says.

Though Dr. Morrongiello, who is a founding member of TC’s Grace Dodge Society, left New York for Boulder, Colorado in 2012, the College has never been far from her heart. Last February, she called Louis Lo Ré, head of Planned Giving, to advise him that she was leaving a significant bequest to create this Endowed Scholarship Fund for Music Education.

Morrongiello wants future music students to be able to pursue their doctoral studies without concern about tuition payments. “This gift will allow students to progress much more quickly and have the freedom to take courses across the college while intensely pursuing their dissertations,” says Hal Abeles, Professor of Music & Music Education.  

Robert Pace received the Music Teachers National Association Achievement Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Music Educators National Conference. He served as Executive Director of the International Piano Teaching Foundation and on a committee appointed by President Kennedy to study music in the United States.  To Lydia Morrongiello, though, his greatest accomplishment is the lifelong passion that he instilled in her which she passed on to her own students. Now, thanks to her generous gift, that cycle will continue. —Mindy Liss

(Published 5/11/2015)

Published Monday, May. 11, 2015