Sandi Scannelli column: What inspires you?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 14, 2019

It’s been an incredible month of witnessing outcomes and joy stemming from inspiration — and how our communities benefit! Let me share one wonderful example. I asked Jennifer Wyshner, director of Student Services at WFHS, what gaps they have in scholarships to recognize deserving students. She quickly named two. One gap, the arts (performing and visual) for students who have made significant contributions to the school’s arts programs, but may not be choosing a career in the arts.  Jennifer Wyshner cited remarkable student talents and while there are some awards, the awards sometimes do not carry the same level of acclaim as a financial scholarship.

During lunch with John Stewart and John Crouch, I mentioned this gap. John Stewart is a retired engineer and well-known philanthropist having established the Leslie Martin Scholarships at WFHS and a Rotary Peace Scholarship, among many other community and Rotary contributions. He shared his personal story of similar non-vocational music experiences. He loves music, played the alto horn in grammar school through college, including the Moravian Easter Band. He was active in the Piedmont Chamber Singers, sang with the North State Chorale for 20 years, and still sings in his church choir today. John made his career as a nuclear engineer, but he never gave up his involvement in music. He understands the importance of the arts, regardless of vocation, and its influence on creativity in all aspects of life. Small digression here — an engineering college president a few years ago shared that students pursuing a degree in engineering commonly seek schools that also have strong music programs. Even researchers have studied the connection between music and math aptitudes.

The following day after our lunch, I received a call — John was inspired to address the scholarship gap in the area of music (vocal and instrumental). Humbly, he did not want the scholarship awarded in his name. Rather, he wanted to honor someone in music education who inspired the lives of students.

Our research led to Rebecca “Becky” and Danny Green, a couple who have both been teaching music for 39 years and within Forsyth County schools for more than 30 years. Even though Becky and Danny Green officially retired, they are both still actively teaching and working with bands throughout the Piedmont. Becky Green now teaches orchestra at West Forsyth High School. Her husband cited that she holds the record for placing more string players in the all-county orchestra than any other director. How marvelous to honor a couple who both dedicated their careers to teaching music, inspiring the lives of countless students along the way. This year, the Danny and Rebecca Green Music Scholarship will be awarded to a WFHS high school student whose contributions to the school’s music program(s) deserve recognition and encouragement to continue — regardless of their career path. If you know the Greens, we hope you’ll join us in sharing appreciation and congratulations. If you know John Stewart, we hope you’ll thank him for lifting up students and individuals deserving of honor through his philanthropy. Maybe even give him a big hug.

Inspiration is beautiful, contagious, and ultimately impactful in many ways. It regularly warms my heart to see how a kernel of inspiration can unfold and touch so many lives in its wake. What’s your inspiration? Importantly, are you acting on what inspires you? Inspiration can become meaningful and contagious when you act on it. As I mentioned, Wyshner cited two scholarship gaps. Are you curious about the second scholarship gap? Send me an email at  Maybe together we can fill the gap and create another meaningful and contagious example with your inspiration!

Sandi Scannelli is president and CEO of the Clemmons Community Foundation.