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$4.2M gift to cover cost of international music tours

Band Sydney

A $4.2 million gift from two donors will make possible an $8.4 million endowment – the revenue generated by the endowment will allow the St. Olaf Choir, Orchestra and Band to tour internationally free of charge.

The endowment, initiated by donors who have supported music at the College in the past, will be fully funded over the next five years. Their donation will be matched by the Strategic Initiative Match program, an initiative approved by the Board of Regents in May 2011 and funded by donations to the College.

Jean Parish, director of college relations for music organizations, announced the endowment to the ensembles via email Feb. 22.

“One of the major points of my announcement was to be very clear that while we are very thrilled about this, it won’t take effect for five years, this new gift,” Parish said in an interview with the Manitou Messenger.

The gift will not apply to the Choir and Orchestra tour to Norway this summer, Parish said.

Parish said that despite this, the College always works diligently to meet student’s financial needs so all ensemble members can go on international tours.

“They come and speak to me and we work directly with financial aid to understand the circumstances of the student,” Parish said. “We look at the endowments we have access to for that purpose and allocate according to the needs of the student.”

Alina Villa ’20, however, said there are still ensemble members struggling to pay for the upcoming tour.

After a change in her family’s financial situation last semester, Villa became worried about having sufficient funds to cover costs.

“Being asked to pay for an international tour on top of not being able to pay tuition or textbooks is a lot,” Villa said. “Although [the College has] provided a lot, people are still struggling to pay the rest of it.”

Nonetheless, Villa said the endowment will greatly benefit future St. Olaf musicians.

Sarah Kolling ’19, a flutist for the Band, said she was surprised and excited when she heard news of the donations.

“I think this will be a great opportunity for more students to be able to tour with the band,” Kolling said.

Duncan Henry ’22, a bassoon player in the Orchestra, offered a different perspective on the new endowment.

“When I first heard the news, I was a little perturbed, as the funding won’t go into effect until after I graduate,” Henry said.

Like Kolling, Henry agreed the gift will be incredibly beneficial for future Oles.

“Regardless, I think [the endowment] is really cool and will be great for music programs here at St. Olaf,” Henry said.

The donors, who will travel with the Orchestra and Choir to Norway this summer, have provided scholarships for several music tours before. These include the upcoming Norway tour, the Band’s 2018 tour to Australia and New Zealand, the Choir’s 2017 tour to Southeast Asia and the Orchestra’s 2018 tour to Argentina.

Reporting contributed by Avery Ellfeldt (

Correction: The headline was corrected to reflect two College donors made a $4.2 million gift, matched by the Strategic Initiative Match program to create an $8.4 million endowment.

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