Adopting a Young Artist at George Mason University

A scholarship program that helps support young musicians financially and offers donors insight into their lives

The Friends of Music (FOM) at George Mason University are encouraging you to adopt. “What?” you might exclaim. “All my kids are grown up. I don’t want another kid running around the house. It’s so quiet and tidy now.” 

Two years ago, my husband Evans and I were invited to lunch by Dr. Linda Apple Monson, an extraordinary pianist who lives in Fairfax Station and teaches at Mason. Also at the luncheon were two other powerfully persuasive people, Alice Heyer, who founded the FOM in 2005, and Brian Marcus, an Associate Dean of Development. 

We were asked to become “guinea pigs,” to be the first members of the Adopt a Young Artist (AYA) program. Oh, my, I thought, as visions of giving up our guest room flashed through my mind. These worries were needless, however.

Evans and I provide financial support (i.e. scholarship funds) to a gifted student, Dominick Izzo, and Dominick has become our friend. He invites us to concerts, and we invite him for lunch. We’ve shown him the town of Clifton and all its charms. He’s helped us celebrate Greek Easter with our extended family, and he’s given our musical granddaughter advice on classes and colleges. We’ve taken him to the airport, and he has taken care of our house, horses and dogs when we’ve gone traveling.

Our relationship with Dominick, a pianist, singer and aspiring conductor, is exactly what Alice Heyer described, “...a special gift that keeps on giving to both the FOM adopter and the adopted student.” We have learned about the life of a musician from Dominick, and he in turn has learned about our community and life.

After our success, two other Fairfax Station families joined the AYA group. Sally and Jim Bennett adopted Buddy Deshler. A trumpet player, Buddy appreciates the fact that the Bennetts “want to know me. They’re interested in what I’m doing, and they want to help.”    

Anne Sharp, a resident of Twelve Oaks, is a self-described “Robinson band mom.” She met Alice Heyer a few years ago when she began taking piano lessons from her. “Because I was a friend of Alice,” she said, “I became a Friend of Music.” Her next step was to Adopt a Young Artist. She and husband Barry have taken under their wing and into their hearts soprano Ayana Reed. 

Heyer and Sharp now co-chair the Scholarship Committee. With their collaboration, the AYA program has flourished.

On Aug. 31, Alice and Fred Heyer hosted a breakfast for AYA members. Leading a presentation about expectations for students and sponsors, Linda Apple Monson recognized the young musicians as the teachers of the future whose own students will carry music into the 22nd Century. She concluded aptly,  “We are so proud of what you have done and what you will accomplish.”

The Adopt a Young Artist Program succeeds because of the enthusiasm and dedication of each member. When we attend performances, we focus on our individual students. We can help with their challenges and feel joy in their achievements.

What do the students gain from the experience? In an essay, one young musician wrote, “...the personal support the AYA student receives sets this scholarship apart from all others.”

If this comment inspires you, School of Music students are waiting to meet you and to become your “adopted” artist.

William Wilson September 08, 2011 at 01:53 PM
This article is nothing short of heartwarming -- in addition to being well-written and interesting. I'm going to contact Mason's Music School about participating. What a wonderful program.
William Wilson September 08, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Patricia Mandes always seems to hit just the right notes in her Patch posts, especially when writing about Music. The Adopt a Young Artist program has so much potential for both adoptor and adoptee. With college costs soaring, what better way to become involved in the life and career of a student! Thanks Patricia for alerting me to this opportunity. Sounds like great fun.
Patricia Mandes September 08, 2011 at 02:14 PM
The Adopt a Young Artist program IS fun. We have gotten such pleasure and pride from getting to know Dominick Izzo, whose name everybody should remember. He's going to be famous in the future.
Barbara Jacksier September 10, 2011 at 04:06 PM
After attending an amazing student opera performance at George Mason, I joined Friends of Music. This organization does wonderful work helping students and deserves wider recognition. Great article.
Denny Layendecker September 10, 2011 at 04:53 PM
AYA is a FANTASTIC program ... and it is positively transforming the lives of our "adopted" Mason School of Music students in every positive way! Thanks you so much to our Friends of Music organization for the terrific idea ... and follow through. You're changing all of our artistic lives for the better! Denny Layendecker, Director, George Mason University School of Music
Bob Warakomsky September 11, 2011 at 11:17 AM
This is a wonderful article describing a wonderful program. Adopting a Young Artist is a heartwarming and exhilarating experience that makes everyone a winner. There are many young artists in the George Mason University School of Music that are available for adoption, and I hope that people who read this article will feel motivated to have their own "adoptee". Bravo to Trish Mandes for publicizing the program!
Alice Heyer September 11, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Bouquets of thanks to Patch for publishing and Trish Mandes for writing this Adopt a Young Artist article. Anyone interested in assisting students achieve their educational goals and artistic dreams may contact me at chopinheyer@aol.com. These talented young musicians come in all vocal ranges and instrumental shapes!
Patricia Mandes September 11, 2011 at 07:33 PM
To all of you people who liked my story about adopting a young artist, thank you very much.
Alice Heyer September 16, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Hi, William. Thank you so much for your warm response to the Friends of Music AYA program. Please contact me at chopinheyer@aol.com if you would like more information. Alice Heyer
Ayana Reed September 19, 2011 at 08:20 PM
This was an amazing-and very touching-article!
Tim Follos September 22, 2011 at 01:00 PM
Another excellent article - Fairfax Station Patch and the community it covers are really fortunate to have Trish on the beat.


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