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USC Thornton School of Music receives major gifts on 125th anniversary

September 12, 2009 |  5:00 am

Violin As it celebrates its 125th anniversary this academic year, the USC Thornton School of Music said it has recently received some pretty significant birthday presents in the form of money and one very famous piano.

Among the pecuniary donations is a $1.25-million gift from Ruth Ross, which the school said will be used to augment the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Scholarship for string students.  (Ross established the scholarship in 2004.) 

The school said it has received two other gifts, both equalling $125,000. One is a matching challenge gift from David and Krystyna Newman, which is going toward the launch of the school's 125th Anniversary Fund Campaign. David Newman is a composer who was nominated in 1998 for an Academy Award for his work on "Anastasia." 

His father is the renowned film composer Alfred Newman, who won a total of nine Oscars during his lifetime. USC's  Alfred Newman Recital Hall, which opened in 1940 and was then known as the Hancock Auditorium, was rechristened in 1999 in honor of the elder Newman.

The Newmans will match contributions up to $125,000 from alumni, parents and friends during the anniversary year, according to the school.

The other gift is from Joanne and Marcel George, and will be used to increase the Joanne and Marcel George Endowed Music Scholarship in Jazz Studies.

Perhaps the most interesting donation to the school is a piano that belonged to Jascha Heifetz. The 7-foot Steinway grand piano has been donated to the school by Simon Ramo. This summer, the school said it has acquired 30 new Steinway pianos, bringing its total Steinway collection to 99, including the Heifetz piano.

The school also said it is creating a new position called the H. Robert Reynolds Endowed Professorship in Wind Conducting, which is created from a gift from John and Sandy Daniels. 

-- David Ng

Credit: Associated Press

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