At this year’s Grand Piano Celebration, the school honored Sid Dewberry for his lifetime spirit of generosity. Above: School of Music students with Sid Dewberry (center) and Dr. Linda Monson (far left).
The annual Grand Piano Celebration at George Mason University, always dedicated to the joy of music, this year celebrated something more: the spirit of generosity embodied by Sidney O. Dewberry, in whose honor the school was recently renamed.
During the virtual event, livestreamed on Sunday afternoon, September 13, Linda Monson, director of the Reva and Sid Dewberry Family School of Music, announced recent additional gifts from the Dewberrys that bring the total commitment for the Linda Apple Monson Scholars to $5 million.
Fulfilled through both current and pledged support, these gifts add to the Dr. Linda Apple Monson Scholars Endowed Fund, established by the Dewberrys to support scholarships for Mason music students. Additional generous donors to the endowed fund are Nina Toups, the Claude Moore Foundation, and Anne and Ronald Abramson.
“We are thrilled and honored that the school of music is now renamed the Reva and Sid Dewberry Family School of Music in honor of the Dewberrys’ lifetime legacy of giving and generous support of our beloved school,” said Monson in the Grand Piano Celebration introduction.
“You’ve expressed that your dream is to put Mason music on top of the heap,” Monson continued. “Well, it’s happening. Your transformational gifts of incredible scholarship endowment support for our Mason music students are indeed helping to make this dream come true.”
“Sid, your love of learning, your generosity, and your dedication to excellence truly embody the Mason spirit,” said university president Gregory Washington in a recorded video message.
“By endowing scholarships that attract the best artist-scholars to Mason from every background and walk of life, you make Mason’s commitment to inclusiveness and excellence a reality,” Washington continued. “With these gifts, we are on our way to fulfilling your dream of seeing Mason join the top tier of music schools in the nation, and the world.”
“The naming of the Reva and Sid Dewberry Family School of Music is a transformative moment for the College of Visual and Performing Arts,” said Rick Davis, dean of the college. “It’s the first named school within our college, and that sends a signal—not only about the School of Music, but about the College of Visual and Performing Arts itself and about George Mason—that this is a place to be reckoned with.”
Dewberry’s support for the School of Music spans two decades, including leading a campaign in 2007 to improve music education at Mason by making it an All-Steinway school. He began taking piano lessons from Monson in 2003 at the age of 75. Dewberry served as rector of the Board of Visitors from 2004 to 2007, after receiving the George Mason Medal, the university’s highest honor, in 1997.
“I recognized that the university had a real possibility of becoming something. I really believe that music is going to be the one thing that is going to make Mason more famous, more recognized than it already is,” said the 92-year-old civil engineer and philanthropist during a video interview shown during the event.
Showcasing the Dewberry School of Music’s extraordinary student and faculty artists, the Grand Piano Celebration included a mix of livestreamed and recorded performances. Mason music students who performed included pianists Megan Slay, Jiye Kim, Kristina Bhardwaj, Yingfei Li, Luke Ratcliffe, GaYoung Lee, Hakyoung Kelly Park, and Estrella Sejin Hong; and vocalists Jaelin Mitchell, Nairobi King, and Rosemary Wright.
A highlight among the faculty performances was Professor Kerry Wilkerson, accompanied by Linda Monson on piano, singing “The Impossible Dream” (from Man of La Mancha), a personal favorite of Sid Dewberry. They were followed by the Mason Trumpet Ensemble, which reprised the song, arranged and conducted by faculty member Dennis Edelbrock.
Several students who are recipients of Monson scholarships recorded messages of thanks that were played during the celebration. Oboist Nicole Decker, a music technology student, said, “Thank you, Mr. Dewberry and your family, for giving me the ability to make the best music I can in the incredible ensembles offered at George Mason.”
More than 250 people watched the Grand Piano Celebration live, and in total more than 2,300 viewers have watched via YouTube and Facebook. The event was followed by a Zoom reception hosted by the Friends of Music, which included remarks from Sid Dewberry, a toast to the student and faculty performers, as well as a duet from Linda Monson and Rick Davis.
With Monson accompanying him on piano, Davis serenaded Dewberry with a specially composed tribute, to the tune of Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top,” singing “Because of you / the tunes will never stop / thanks to you / George Mason music’s at the top.”
—Rob Riordan, September 16, 2020