A $5 million endowment to promote American music will allow the Butler School of Music to better educate students in the study, performance and composition of music produced in the Americas, ranging from jazz to mariachi.
The endowment will permit Butler ensembles that perform primarily music from the Americas to tour more and support the Center for American Music in bringing scholars, performers and composers to campus, said Butler School director Mary Ellen Poole.
“The composers and performers and scholars we’re training here at UT will shape its future, which is a huge responsibility,” Poole said. “Therefore, it’s our responsibility to use this wonderful gift wisely, with as much impact as possible.”
The endowment was left after the death of Richard Rainwater in September 2015 and is expected to provide $250,000 annually beginning in the next fiscal year.
Rainwater, a 1966 UT mathematics alumnus and Forth Worth investor, began working with former Butler director Glenn Chandler in 2001 to plan his gift.
Poole said she is most excited about the Rainwater Innovation Grants, a new program that will give funding directly to graduate and undergraduate students for projects which aim to promote and advance the arts. This competitive program, which could tentatively begin this spring, will be a chance for students to present innovative proposals to faculty in the school.
Composition professor Dan Welcher said traditionally classical music only includes European music. However, he said he believes American music should be a primary source of study for music students.
“Our students grow up in a multicultural musical mix of styles, nationalities and tastes,” Welcher said. “It makes great sense for our students to dig deeper into their own roots, and it gives me great professional pride to know that UT will now be a beacon for this sort of study.”
Music composition junior Donald Hale said he could see the endowment going toward a number of diverse projects at the Butler School, including new scholarships and fellowships as well as opportunities to bring American music to diverse communities around the world.
“With this funding, professors could bring world renowned musicians and composers at the forefronts of their fields to give lectures and master classes for the benefit of our student populace,” Hale said. “I’m very excited for what this would mean for the future of our wonderful music program.”