by Kelly Rogge, KCKCC
One student at Kansas City Kansas Community College is the first to receive a scholarship from the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation under a new partnership.
KCKCC recently reached an agreement with the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation regarding a new music scholarship – the Ella Fitzgerald Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship will provide one music or audio engineering student per year with a full-tuition scholarship that covers all college-related fees and expenses.
KCKCC’s first recipient is Christian Anderson, a second-year music major from Shawnee, Kansas.
“I cannot begin to express how grateful and humbled I am that the faculty saw fit to name me the first Ella Fitzgerald Scholar at KCKCC,” Anderson said. “The fact that they thought me deserving of this serves as a great encouragement to me to keep giving my all despite whatever may happen in an uncertain future. This is truly a great honor that I am very excited to have received.”
The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation was established in 1993 by Ella Fitzgerald, a world-renowned jazz artist. Fitzgerald wanted to share her passion for music and reading with people of all races, cultures and beliefs as well as to help at-risk and disadvantaged members of society achieve a higher quality of life.
The foundation’s four main areas of focus are – creating educational and other opportunities for children; fostering a love and knowledge of music, including assistance to students of music; the provision of health care, food, shelter and counseling to those in need and specific areas of medical care and research, with an emphasis on diabetes, vision problems and heart disease.
The foundation’s scholarship program began in 1996 at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University-Long Beach. The program has since expanded, and the foundation now funds 30 scholarships at schools throughout the United States.
“It is an honor for us to have been invited by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation to be one of their educational partners,” said Dr. Justin Binek, assistant professor of music at KCKCC. “For us to be part of a list that includes such wonderful jazz programs as California State University-Long Beach, the University of North Texas and North Carolina Central University is remarkable. And I couldn’t think of a more deserving student to be our first Ella Fitzgerald Scholar than Christian. In addition to being a truly excellent and well-rounded musician, in my opinion he’s an even better person.”
KCKCC was chosen as an Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation partner, in part, because of the college’s repeated national exposure through the Downbeat Student Music Awards and performances at various national conferences.
In addition, Dr. Justin Binek, assistant professor of music at KCKCC, completed his doctoral research on Fitzgerald’s improvisation techniques and the foundation has expressed interest in partnering with a community college that had a high percentage of minority students.
“KCKCC is ecstatic to have a partnership with the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. This award is another indication of how highly regarded our Music Department has become, along with the 14 DownBeat Student Music Awards that our students – mostly vocal – have won in the last four years,” said Jim Mair, music professor at KCKCC. “Kansas City, Kansas, is also the birthplace of Charlie Parker, Carmell Jones and Dr. Nathan Davis, all of whom performed with Ella Fitzgerald, and KCKCC Professor Dr. Justin Binek wrote his dissertation on the evolution of Ella’s scatting. All of the pieces of the puzzle are coming together to perpetuate the Kansas City, Kansas, connection to swing, soul and the evolution of jazz music.”
Anderson, a graduate of Shawnee Mission Northwest, focuses primarily in voice, and performs a diverse range of styles, including classical, jazz and musical theatre. He is a member of KCKCC’s award-winning vocal jazz ensemble, The Standard. An excellent academic student as well, Anderson studies piano and he is active in KCKCC’s Theatre Department.
“We are honored that the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation selected KCKCC to be one of the few institutions in the country to offer their scholarship,” said John Stafford, associate professor of music, director of choral activities. “I am excited about Christian earning this award. Of the 10 candidates we were considering, Christian had the highest GPA among all of them. Also, a special thank you should go to Dr. (Justin) Binek for being the liaison between the college and the foundation in organizing this opportunity. This wouldn’t have happened without his hard work and insight.”