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From l-r, Jordan Nettgen, Ann Collins, Michael Stryker, Benjamin Bergmark and Steven Solomon (courtesy photo)
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Ann Collins Jazz Piano Scholarship

October 7, 2011

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MACOMB, IL -- A concert to benefit the Ann Collins Jazz Piano Scholarship at Western Illinois University was held last month in WIU's College of Fine Arts and Communication Recital Hall, and the namesake had the opportunity to catch up with the recipients of her generosity. Established in 2003 by WIU professor emeritus Ann Collins and her late husband, Rex, the scholarship benefits music majors with jazz piano talent. It provides for an annual $1,000 award to a jazz pianist showing a high level of talent and potential.

"I really enjoy getting to know the recipients and to hear them play, which is why I fund the scholarship annually while building the endowment," Collins said.

Participating in this year's benefit concert were current recipient Jordan Nettgen of Belvidere (IL) and past recipients Benjamin Bergmark '11 of Rockford (IL) and Steve Solomon of Chicago.

"The scholarship is used as a recruiting tool to bring talented pianists to campus, and also to support talented jazz pianists performing in the ensembles in the jazz program, big bands, and/or combos," said Michael Stryker, associate director of jazz studies, and associate professor of jazz piano in the WIU School of Music. The program currently has two big bands and four combos.

In addition to the fundraising concerts, Collins directs all proceeds of sales of her two CDs, "6:05 Central Standard Time" and "Re: Romance," to the scholarship endowment.

"There will be a new CD soon from the August 28 concert," Collins said. "Anytime someone buys a CD, they support the scholarship." The latest concert featured Collins on piano, Jim Betts, bass; Woodie Brassil, drums; Pete Hannen, tenor saxophone; and vocalist, David Lafary.

"I want people to know how important it is to have resources directly targeted at students who have talent as jazz players, and in this case, jazz pianists," said Stryker. "I'm grateful to Ann for her strong support of the WIU jazz program in general, and the jazz piano studio in particular. The University and Macomb communities are exceptionally fortunate to have her in the area."

Posted By: Julie Murphy, WIU Foundation (
Office of University Relations