Student Scholarship program helps young artists realize their dreams

Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
Piano student Allison Shinnick decided to return the Chautauqua for the 2014 season. She rehearses and performs throughout the music program.

For students of the performing arts at Chautauqua, the grounds provide an artistic haven to hone old skills and develop new ones.

And thanks to the generosity of various Chautauquans, the Institution can welcome the best and the brightest young talent in the world to study and perform their craft all summer long.

With the average cost of tuition, room and board totalling nearly $4,200, the contributions made in the form of scholarship endowments for the arts is of crucial importance for many students. Currently, approximately 85 percent of the students enrolled in Chautauqua will receive financial aid, with the average scholarship award being $2,500. This year’s group of young performers enrolled in the Chautauqua Schools of Fine and Performing Arts is no exception to the Institution’s characteristic quality of education and artistic presence.

Allison Shinnick, Josiah Savage, and Rebecca Farley are three artists who benefit from a summer at Chautauqua with the help of student scholarships.

“My goal is to share music, whether that’s as a performer, as a collaborator or as a teacher,” said Shinnick, who is currently studying piano at the Institution.

“I want to be able to share what I have to say through music and the riches that music has to offer the world.”

Shinnick, who is originally from Wisconsin, began playing the piano when she was 5 years old. Although she has training in both the piano and the oboe, she said that coming to Chautauqua last year was the experience that solidified her dream of pursuing a professional career in music.

“I felt like, after last summer, I had a lot clearer of a picture of what I thought my life as a pianist could be,” Shinnick said. “I had just decided I was going to continue with the piano and leave my other interests aside, so it was a special place for me to start focusing in that way.”

For Shinnick, networking opportunities are an advantage of studying at Chautauqua, and she is grateful for the chance to meet so many people in her field.

“I think Chautauqua is a great place to build connections with other musicians, whether those musicians are your peers or your faculty,” she said. “And I’m very thankful for the scholarship donors. In my case, I wouldn’t have been able to attend if I had to pay the full price.”

In addition to her peers and teachers, Shinnick said she appreciates the welcoming and invested Chautauqua community for all of their encouragement, financial and otherwise.

“I think Chautauqua is a really special place; it’s unlike [anything else],” she said. “Having the support group that the Chautauqua community, having people that you recognize coming to your performances and talking to you afterwards, is special.”

After the season, Shinnick plans to begin graduate school at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.

Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
Voice student Rebecca Farley calls McKnight Hall, where she takes master classes, practices and rehearses with other students for performances, her home this summer.

Farley represents another side of the performing arts training at Chautauqua: voice.

For Farley, the gift of Chautauqua is one of invested teaching.

“Marlena [Malas] is the head voice teacher in the program, and she just knows what I need. She’s knows what we all need,” said Farley, who was a recipient of the Malas Voice Award, provided by the Goldfarb family. “It’s nice coming to a program where you know you’re in good hands and you know that you don’t have to worry about the information you’re getting. You don’t have to be skeptical. You can feel comfortable to try new things in a safe place with people who are very knowledgeable.”

Originally from Henderson, Kentucky, and having studied voice at the University of Kentucky, Farley said that her first time at Chautauqua was one of her first out-of-state opportunities, and that she is grateful to share the experience with other dedicated artists.

“I see all these people doing wonderful things and, after being here a second season, seeing how people have grown in the past year makes me excited and makes me realize how much I’ve grown as well,” she said. “It’s just nice to be around like-minded people as well who are going to encourage you.”

The creative support Farley has is just one benefit of being a student at the Institution. Another, she said, is the curriculum, and the faculty’s commitment to a strong musical foundation.

“It may seem kind of straightforward, but my goal is to support myself with singing and it gets harder and harder to do that,” Farley said. “I really believe that if you have a classical foundation, if you have a classical technique, you can branch out into any genre and be successful.”

Farley also said that she is grateful to the scholarship program for enabling her to gain the exposure she has had in her two summers spent on the grounds.

“It’s a big deal,” she said. “Again, Marlena is one of the top voice teachers in the country. Getting to work with her and getting the scholarship knowing that she is invested in my singing and my future … that has meant more to me than almost everything else.”

Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
Josiah Savage practices with his partner, Gabriela Schiefer, during a variations rehearsal for an upcoming performance.

Like Shinnick and Farley, Savage is studying at Chautauqua this summer thanks to the student scholarship program. Originally from Kennesaw, Georgia, Savage — at 18 years old — has already been dancing for 12 years.

“When I was really little, I went to church and saw these ribbon girls dancing with a scarf, so I went home and took out my mother’s scarf,” Savage said. “Then she put me in classes and I took a ballet class and from there it was over. I was hooked.”

Before coming to Chautauqua this year, Savage was attending the Hamburg Ballet in Germany, and said he will be heading to Charlotte to perform with the second company of the Charlotte Ballet at the season’s end. With his goal of being a member of a professional ballet company in reach, Savage said his other professional goals include being able to perform all types of dance styles and being committed to his craft.

“One of my favorite artists, Stevie Vai, always says you never choose to be a professional artist or musician or dancer. You just know, and when someone mentions that you can go professional you’re just like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me sooner?’ ” he said. “No one told me that you could spin around seven or eight times, and it feels great doing it.”

Savage received a full scholarship to study at Chautauqua and is thankful for the opportunity to live and work within this particular community on the grounds.

“Being around so many kinds of arts is beyond inspiring,” Savage said. “When I see musicians and I see how inspired they are and when I see actors and actresses and opera singers and also what it takes for them to be as good as they are, it’s just like heaven; it’s paradise.”

For more information, contact Tina Downey, director of the Chautauqua Fund, at A complementary 55-minute video, called “Chautauqua: Charting a Life in the Arts,” can be found at WQED Pittsburgh’s YouTube channel