ESTERO — They can play Pomp and Circumstance and on Sunday seven students at Florida Gulf Coast University will be walking to it.
They will also be part of history.
The seven represent the first graduates from the university’s Bower School of Music.
The program began four years ago and is expected to grow to a total enrollment of more than 100 students in the fall.
“We are planning our growth very carefully,” said Robert Thayer, Bower School of Music’s interim director.
The graduates are Kate Abbott, Bradenton; Francesca Da Silva, Punta Gorda; Justin Goff, Fort Myers; Satoko Hayami, Wakayama, Japan; Edward Rizo, Miami; Anthony Schons, Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Jamie Spagnola, Fort Myers.
“We hope that they have had a positive and stimulating experience and we wish them every success,” Thayer said.
Schons is graduating as a double major with a degree in Music Education and Music Performance, the two degree programs that the school offers.
Schons transferred from the University of Northern Iowa to FGCU specifically for the Bower School of Music.
“The opportunities and the education that I got cannot be found anywhere else,” he said. “It was definitely worth transferring.”
Schons instrument of choice is the horn. After graduation, he plans to attend Italian Conservatory in Switzerland in pursuit of a master’s degree.
Originally a Theater major Kate Abbot joined the Bower School of Music in her second year at FGCU. She switched programs for more of a challenge and got what she was looking for.
“I knew it was going to be hard,” she said. “This program will be a force to be reckoned with in the state of Florida.”
Abbot is completing her 22 credits this semester with a degree in Music Education.
Her main focus is voice, although she plays the cello. Before entering the program, she had never been formally trained in voice.
“The school did that,” Abbot said. “They gave me the training.”
Abbot feels that the importance of music as part of a basic education is decreasing.
“If I had one goal, it would be to show the community that music is not just a privilege it is a right and I think everyone has the right to not only experience it, but learn it for themselves,” she said.
According to Thayer, the largest role music can play in the community is through teaching, but Abbot doesn’t think it is important enough.
“Music is a dying art, so I am going to try to immerse myself in the general population and teach appreciation for it,” Abbot said.
The basic curriculum for the school includes education.
“We will continue to emphasize the two things that we are now, which are music education and performance,” Thayer said. “The program will be based largely around teaching, but we also believe that that success of a music teacher needs to be a good performer.”
The Bower School of Music will open a new building on campus in August. It will feature sound-proof walls, new equipment and designated practice space.
“It will be far superior to what we have now,” Thayer said.
As the program continues to grow Thayer hopes to see a concert hall and the start of a music therapy program in the near future.
Next year, the school hopes to seek formal accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music. The accreditation forces the school to do a strict self evaluation that Thayer feels will be helpful as the program grows.
“It certainly will increase our visibility and prestige,” Thayer said.