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Rex Collins Jazz Scholarship

“There’s probably no better example of democracy than a jazz ensemble…”

Michelle Obama.

The quote appears on the website of Ann Collins, WIU alum (’61, MA ’68), former piano faculty member (1968-1988), and department chair (1988-1997). Now in retirement, Collins continues to perform, write jazz piano texts, and offer jazz piano clinics for piano teachers. Collins is also one of the original planners and integral organizers of Macomb’s annual Al Sears Jazz Festival held each September. Not one to only be in the present, Collins also spends time and resources planning for the future of jazz students at Western Illinois University.

Collins and her late husband, Rex, established the Ann Collins Jazz Piano Scholarship at Western in 2003. The scholarship benefits music majors with jazz piano talent and has been funded through annual contributions as well as proceeds from sales of Ann’s two CDs.

In 2009, the Collins Family (Ann, Rex, and their children Terri, Carol and Scott) contributed $125,000 to endow a scholarship in Rex’s name to provide the jazz studies program with resources to recruit talented students to WIU.

“The scholarship was Rex’s idea,” Ann said recently, “and a decision he reached shortly before he passed away.” She continued, “ “When you know you are near the end of your life, you start thinking and evaluating your experience,” explained Collins. “Rex was always supportive of my work at Western and so appreciative of the opportunities afforded us throughout my career. Not only did I earn two degrees from Western, two of our three children and our son-in-law graduated from WIU, and two of our grandchildren are currently enrolled here.”

“The scholarship is a fitting tribute to Rex,” said Ann, “and he felt satisfaction knowing that it will benefit students for many, many years to come. We both hope our scholarships will provide an incentive for students to attend Western and pursue their dedication to jazz performance.”

The Collins’ intent is that the Rex Collins Jazz Scholarship will help elevate the level of jazz ensemble performance at Western. The music faculty will have the flexibility to determine how and to whom to award the scholarships, and the students do not necessarily have to be music majors. Rather, the financial assistance and incentive will help the School of Music to recruit talented students to Western.

“On behalf of the entire Jazz Studies Program at Western Illinois University, I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize, with deepest gratitude, how very honored we feel with this gift from the Collins family,” said John Cooper, Director of Jazz Studies. “It is a fitting tribute for a life spent in pursuit of fostering musical understanding in the growth of young artists. More specifically, theRex and Ann Collins Jazz Scholarship helps to ensure that the tradition of excellence in jazz education that Western Illinois University has come to be known, will continue long into the future and forever memorialize the many wonderful contributions that Rex and Ann made together, and Ann continues to make for the betterment of our community. Thank you to the entire Collins family. We eagerly look forward to awarding this scholarship.”

“Jazz is an important part of America’s musical heritage,” said Ann, “and I feel privileged to have a small part in helping to preserve and promote artistic jazz performance at Western Illinois University for generations to come.”