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Donor leaves $10M legacy for Delaware music students

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WILMINGTON – Aspiring music students from Delaware now have access to more scholarship opportunities thanks to a $10 million endowment gifted to the Music School of Delaware.

The endowment provided by the trust of music-lover Mary Ellen Northrop will create the Mary Ellen Northrop Endowed Fund for Music Education, which will provide scholarships to Music School students. The donation marks the largest monetary gift in the school’s history, the organization said.

“It’s an enormous opportunity to reach more people,” Music School of Delaware Treasurer Larry Hamermesh said. “On a personal level, I just don’t know how to be grateful enough to all the people … who gave me my musical education. It’s been an important part of my life and the idea of being able to impart that to others is a huge thing.”

Northrop, whose family owned a large farming operation in upstate New York, passed away in June at her home in Wilmington. She spent many years participating in music programs at local churches, singing in the choir and playing clarinet solos. She included the Music School of Delaware in her trust, and organization leaders said her generosity will ensure others would be able to share her love of music for years to come.

“This magnanimous gift will enable the Music School to extend its standard-setting individual and group instruction to families who otherwise could not participate,” Music School President and CEO Kate Ransom said in a press release. “We are so grateful to Mary Ellen Northrop for leaving a legacy that will make a profound difference in the lives of young musicians in Delaware.”

As Hamermesh stood on the stage in Wilmington this week, describing the new gift to an audience of dignitaries and members of the press, he was intensely aware of its impact. Just 12 hours earlier, he had been on the same stage playing violin with the community orchestra, as he had been doing for about 40 years, he said.

“What we’ve been doing is to try to encourage everybody to think about ways to reach the previously unserved demand for music instruction, where income limitations have been a barrier,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We can now overcome that in ways we haven’t been able to do before.”

Students from preschool through high school studying early childhood music, band or orchestral instruments, as well as students of piano, organ and voice, are eligible to apply. Assistance may be provided for up to two years per student, and funding awards will be based on financial need and other criteria. Application forms will soon be available.

Hamermesh said the endowment will increase the number of scholarships the Music School can grant “by an order of magnitude.” Currently, there are about 2,500 music students spread across the state, he said.

The Music School of Delaware was founded in 1924 and has locations in Wilmington and Milford, with satellite locations throughout the state. It offers music instruction for all ages and abilities. To learn more about the endowment and scholarships, call the Music School of Delaware at 302-762-1132.

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