In the not-too-distant future, a young person is going to have a special violin loaned to him or her, and perhaps some scholarship dollars to further his or her musical education. The benefactor, the late Paul Conrad “Con” Woolwine, made sure of it before he passed away July 5.
He started to play the violin at a very young age, encouraged by his aunt, who was a music teacher. She started him on a small violin. As she realized what an extraordinary talent he had, she bought him a very good violin – one he had for the rest of his life. One he played in the Wichita Youth Orchestra as a teenager. And the one he played for his wife, Priscilla, who now lives in Sun City, Ariz.
“He would play for me, and it was so beautiful,” she said. “He never forgot how much he enjoyed playing in the youth orchestra in Wichita. And his mother had to drive him to Wichita from their home in Pratt for every rehearsal and performance.”
“My mom is a terrific singer, so we had a very musical household,” their son, Tom Woolwine, said. “I remember Dad playing the violin in my younger days, but he also liked to turn up the classical music really loud. Then he’d conduct in the middle of the living room with his baton.”
He played the violin all the way through his school years, two summers at the prestigious national music camp in Interlochen, Mich., and then in college. When family and his business filled his days, the violinist put his “pride and joy” away.
Later in life, he had discussions with his wife and son about what would be done with the violin after his death.
“Because the youth orchestra was very important to him, he decided he wanted it to be available for loan for a young person who couldn’t afford a good violin,” Tom Woolwine said.
And he made sure a scholarship was started.
“We named it the Woolwine Rising Star Scholarship,” he said. “The bottom line is Dad said he wanted to have an impact on young people in Wichita who are rising stars and need help, whether it’s an instrument or financial.”
And that pleases Don Reinhold, executive director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.
“Putting a musical instrument into the hand of a child is one of the greatest gifts you can give,” he said. “I think a lot of people understand the importance of music in a student’s life, but they need to be reminded, and this scholarship and violin will do that.”
While the dollar value of the donated violin isn’t yet known, it’s a beautiful instrument that a deserving student will enjoy playing.
When Con’s friend Jay Swanson told me this story, I thought how frustrating it must be for students who have the gift of musical talent but are in need of a good instrument and scholarship funds.
“Funding for musical education is not because we’ll discover the next Joshua Bell. It’s part of the student education that they need to become a complete human being,” Reinhold said. “The youth symphony orchestra here is quite an outstanding program that deserves more recognition and support.”
If you would like to donate to the Woolwine Rising Star Scholarship, send a check to: P. Conrad Woolwine Rising Star Scholarship, 225 W. Douglas, Suite 207, Wichita, KS 67202.
And if you have a musical instrument in good shape, that would be welcome, too.