Donor says new scholarship she established at Catawba is already paying dividends

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2016

SALISBURY — Local philanthropist and arts supporter Sarah Kellogg says her gift to fund an endowed scholarship at Catawba College to honor her longtime friend and music professor Dr. Phillip Burgess is already paying dividends.

The inaugural recipient of the Dr. Phillip E. Burgess Sacred Music Endowed Scholarship is rising Catawba senior R.J. Thornton. Thornton and some of his fellow students in the ensemble Catawba Worship recently distinguished themselves by performing at the National Youth Event (NYE) held at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Thornton is the student director of Catawba Worship which was invited to perform as the house band at multiple events during the NYE.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Kellogg shared, after sitting in on a campus rehearsal that Catawba Worship held prior to departing for Orlando. “These students are wonderful, and R.J. most certainly is deserving as the recipient of the scholarship named in Phillip’s honor.”

Kellogg met Burgess 20 years ago through St. Luke’s Episcopal Church where she sang in the choir and he played the organ and served as musical director. Preference for the scholarship Kellogg established in Burgess’ honor will be given to students majoring in music and pursuing concentrations in sacred music. Thornton met those criteria; he is a music education major who has helped direct Catawba’s annual Lessons and Carols, as well as fall and spring choral concerts. Thornton spent last summer in New Jersey at the Westminster Choral College studying with Burgess’ former teachers to hone and improve his own musical skills.

“I was very honored by Sarah’s generosity,” Burgess said. “Most scholarships are given in memory of a loved one, but this scholarship is given in honor of someone still living. It is exciting that I can see first-hand how this scholarship will be distributed, and I can see the student recipient’s development as a result of the scholarship.”

Catawba is one of only a few colleges in North Carolina to offer a sacred music program. Its sacred music concentration is designed to prepare students for careers as a church musician who can function successfully as a performer, administrator, and as a choral and instrumental director. The program also acquaints students with methods and materials needed to implement a church music program. The primary performance medium for students pursuing this concentration at Catawba is the organ.

Kellogg’s gift to establish the scholarship in honor of Burgess belies her own interest and passion in music and the arts. She earned her bachelor of music and master of music degrees from Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C. She has contributed her time, talents and resources to other organizations in Salisbury, including Waterworks Visual Arts Center, Historic Salisbury Foundation and St. Luke’s Episcopal.

“It is a privilege to be able to be generous, and it is especially good if students can benefit. Phillip is so worthy of this honor, not only because he is a friend, but because he is a very talented man who so willingly nurtures the talents of others. When he joined Catawba, he was very excited about teaching and about what his students were accomplishing.”

Kellogg confided she has also made recent gifts to Catawba that will help underwrite the musical costs of the annual Lessons and Carols service, that will mark its 29th year this holiday season, as well as gifts to cover costs of other choral concerts that Burgess and his students will offer.

Donors like Kellogg may designate their gifts to Catawba for specific programs that match their interests and passions. For more details, contact the development office at 704- 637-4394.