France-bound, on a Fulbright

DANBURY, CONN. — Some people say it’s not what you know, but who you know. For Stephen Price ’09, it came down to a bit of both. If he didn’t know so much about playing the pipe organ, the Buffalo, N.Y., native might not have won numerous local competitions or been one of only 20 high school students nationwide invited to attend the Westminster Choir College of Rider University Organ Week in Princeton, N.J.

But it was who he met once he was at Organ Week that eventually led Price to WestConn.

“I was a sophomore in high school when I went to New Jersey for Organ Week,” Price says. “While I was there, I met another organ student from Pennsylvania. We became friends, and even after the week was over, we kept in touch. “He was a year older than me, so when he went to college, I was a senior in high school. He would tell me about his organ teacher, the playing techniques he was learning from him, and how much the teacher obviously cared about his students — and it sounded great.”

The organ instructor in question was WestConn Adjunct Professor of Music Stephen Roberts. Price called Roberts to talk about WestConn’s organ program, and before long the two met when the Organ Historical Society held a convention in — of all places — Buffalo.

“Steve Roberts actually performed an organ recital at my church, so I got to meet him, hear him play and talk to him about the organ,” Price said. “That pretty much made up my mind about where I wanted to go to college.”’

It’s not that Price didn’t have other options. The prestigious Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio had offered a $12,000 per semester scholarship. Price turned it down to come to WestConn.

Roberts is pleased Price made that choice.

“Stephen is a fine young man, and I believe that we are indeed fortunate to have had him at WCSU,” Roberts says. “He won a number of prizes, scholarships and awards as a high school senior, and he was generally recognized to be an outstanding talent. Because of this high potential and outstanding high school record, he was recruited by a number of prestigious universities and conservatories. The fact that he chose WestConn over these better-known schools shows that our reputation is increasing, and that we compare very well to other universities.”

Price says he based his decision on a number of factors. “The smaller music department allows more time for individual attention and enables the trips that the organ program takes to Europe each year,” he says. “I also knew I would have a better chance at getting a job as a church organist in Fairfield County, while at Oberlin the odds would not have been as good.” While at WestConn, Price was an organ scholar at St. Paul's on the Green Episcopal Church in Norwalk, Conn.

The 21-year-old says he wants to become a professional organist and would also like to teach music on the collegiate level one day. He participated in some memorable learning experiences while at WestConn that will help him along that path. “I went on all four organ program trips to Europe,” he says. “The trips are done in a four-year cycle: Austria, central Germany, France and Holland/northern Germany. We studied the music of composers related to the countries before we went. Once there, we had classes with world experts on the music and the organs. My favorite trip was the France trip because I enjoy French organ music the most.”

It’s a good thing Price prefers French organ music, because come September he’ll be studying there. This spring, as the Dean’s List student prepared to graduate with a Bachelor of Music, Price received word he had won a very coveted award: a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Conservatoire National de Région in Toulouse, France. After that, he will relocate to Bloomington, Ind., to enroll in the Masters in Organ Performance program at Indiana University.

Price’s instructor, Roberts, had a Fulbright to study in Vienna when he was an organ student 35 years ago. “The truth is, since I had a Fulbright myself, I know what kinds of doors this can open for a student,” Roberts says. “Stephen has worked really hard and deserves this award. It’s recognition of his hard work and commands immediate respect in the academic world. To study in another country, in a completely different environment, is invaluable,” Roberts continues. “He’ll make friends and contacts that will continue through his whole life. I’m glad Stephen will have the same opportunity I had.”

In the end, Price believes it comes down to a combination of what you know AND who you know. “At WestConn, you can put yourself out there, and let the professors and staff get to know you. I had invaluable help with my Fulbright application from my organ instructor, Steve Roberts; and Professor of Anthropology Dr. Robert Whittemore and Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Chris Kukk, both of whom have also won Fulbright Awards. WCSU is a small school, but it affords its students the same opportunities as at other institutions. Here, you can determine your own path.”

 

Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

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