By Wende Persons, '74
It's funny how life works, how a serendipitous choice to come to SUNY Fredonia in 1970 fueled my lifelong connection to music and desire to give back to the school nearly 50 years later. I chose Fredonia for three excellent reasons in my teenage mind: the college had a very good women's tennis team, it was in my National Ski Patrol area in Western New York and SUNY's in-state tuition would make it possible to afford a junior year abroad in Austria. A fourth reason quickly surfaced: the lure of the School of Music.
Midway through my first semester, I switched from an English major to music and I was accepted into the piano studio of Claudette Sorel. She was a former child prodigy turned star pianist, the first woman to be named a Distinguished University Professor in the SUNY system and a great teacher. I was nowhere near her best student, and when she discovered three years later that I was on Fredonia's varsity women's tennis team, she asked why I wasn't majoring in tennis!
But I loved being at Mason Hall, surrounded by music and musicians. After graduation and a brief, lonely stint teaching elementary school music, I stumbled into arts administration and an incredibly fulfilling career in New York City promoting musicians and classical music.
More serendipity: 14 years ago my friend Judy Cope called for advice about her new job running the Sorel Charitable Organization. I had no idea Claudette Sorel had started a foundation before her death in 1999 to create opportunities for women in classical music and to bring more women composers and conductors into the concert hall. Judy had no idea I was a student of Miss Sorel, as all of us at Fredonia called her, and she invited me to join the Sorel Advisory Board.
We have had a lot of fun working together through the years, including honoring Claudette Sorel's memory at Fredonia and celebrating the Sorel gift of a new Steinway concert grand and a Claudette Sorel Memorial Piano Scholarship. In addition, the Sorel Organization has continued to extend their generous support to Fredonia Music faculty by providing grants for individuals and programs such as the annual Claudette Sorel Piano Competition.
I never made millions working in the arts, but I am so much richer for attending Fredonia and creating a life in music. Whenever Fredonia called to ask for contributions, I joked I would give a lot more when I won the lottery. Making this planned gift now through the Dallas K. Beal Legacy Society is the next best way.
Learn how you can support educational opportunities for future generations of students at Fredonia. Contact the Fredonia College Foundation at (716) 673-3321 or Foundation@fredonia.edu and we can help you begin developing your legacy blueprint.
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