University of North Carolina School of the Arts receives gifts totaling $4 million for music scholarships

A "significant, immediate impact on our ability to recruit the best" music students, according to Chancellor Lindsay Bierman


Winston-Salem, N.C., Feb. 14, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) has received two gifts totaling $4 million to establish endowed scholarships in its School of Music. These gifts—both funded through estate plans—effectively double the amount of merit-based scholarships available for UNCSA musicians and strengthen UNCSA’s ability to attract and retain students. 

“These extraordinary gifts will have a significant and immediate impact on our ability to recruit the best musicians,” said UNCSA Chancellor Lindsay Bierman. “The scholarships funded by these endowments will strengthen our competitive advantage in tuition costs, and reward young artists who demonstrate the talent, discipline, and grit it takes to perform at the very highest levels.”

On Feb. 12, UNCSA announced a gift of $3 million to support merit-based scholarships in the School of Music. It was a planned gift made by an anonymous donor as part of an estate plan, and represents one of the largest single gifts in the history of the School of Music. The donor passed away in January.

On Feb. 2, UNCSA announced a gift of $1 million from the estate of artist and philanthropist Jenny Lillian Semans Koortbojian, the late daughter of school founders, advocates and benefactors Dr. James H. Semans and Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, to endow merit-based scholarships in the School of Music.

UNCSA School of Music Dean Brian Cole said, “Scholarships are a top priority for the school, and these gifts will provide us with a significant edge in recruiting and retaining highly-qualified students from across the state and around the world.” The scholarships funded by the two gifts will be awarded at the discretion of the school’s dean on the basis of academic and artistic success. 

In addition to providing vital scholarship support to UNCSA students, they also serve as leadership gifts in UNCSA’s comprehensive fundraising campaign. “These generous gifts ensure that talented aspiring musicians can pursue their artistic dreams,” said Vice Chancellor for Advancement Edward J. Lewis III. “We are profoundly grateful.”

Koortbojian’s father was the first chairman of the UNCSA Board of Trustees, while her mother served on the board for more than 20 years. Her nephew, Charles Lucas, also served as chair of the Board of Trustees and recently completed 19 years of service on the Board.

“The Duke-Semans family’s commitment to UNCSA is unwavering, and we are so proud of the school and all of the students, faculty, alumni and administrative leadership that have helped make it such a special institution,” Lucas said. “My aunt Jenny inherited from her parents deep and abiding love and respect for UNCSA. On behalf of her family and friends, we are so pleased to honor her by establishing the Jenny Lillian Semans Koortbojian Music Scholarship which will help our talented students achieve their dreams.”

Chancellor Bierman noted, “With this endowment, the estate of Jenny Koortbojian honors the legacy established by her parents, Jim and Mary Semans. Like her parents, Jenny was passionate about the arts and about life-long learning. Since its founding, the School of the Arts has been fortunate to have the support and friendship of the Semans family, and we are deeply grateful.”

One of the top-ranked music schools in the United States, the UNCSA School of Music gives talented young students the opportunity to perfect their musical abilities and prepare for life as a professional musician. Students receive highly-personalized instruction from a major studio teacher who is an active performer, as well as distinguished guest artists. More than 200 recitals, concerts and operas are performed each year in state-of-the-art venues suitable for small ensembles to large orchestras. These performances – plus local gigs, tours, and career development opportunities – help students grow as artists. The School of Music currently enrolls 256 students: 108 undergraduate students, 54 graduate students and 94 high school students. Areas of study include a wide array of instrumental performance programs, voice performance, composition and orchestral conducting.

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is America’s first state-supported arts school, a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking, and music. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit



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