CLAYTON — With the help of her family, Kathryn Amore Ingerson is paying forward the dividends of providing a financial boost to aspiring music educators and professionals.
Mrs. Ingerson retired last June from the Thousand Islands Central School District, where she reshaped the music department and consistently led it to statewide accolades. At TICS, over a 26-year career, she taught middle school and high school classroom music, conducted all vocal ensembles and served as the district’s coordinator of music. She directed school musicals and created the annual Dessert Theater and Silent Auction hosted by the Select Vocal Ensemble to fund trips, where it earned consistent “Superior” and “Gold” ratings from Quebec City to New York City. In the spring of 2019, the 27-member ensemble performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
In 2015, Mrs. Ingerson was nominated for a Grammy when her accomplishments lifted her as a semifinalist for the annual Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.
She continues to be a private vocal coach and volunteers her musical skills for a variety of local productions. She has taught private voice lessons since 1982. Some of her younger students take piano and guitar lessons and she’s also given clarinet lessons — her first instrument. She played clarinet throughout college, played professionally and was a founding member of the Clayton Community Band, performing in its first 10 years.
Mrs. Ingerson’s career track in music was boosted when, at age 17, she won a prestigious scholarship as a high school senior at Northport High School on Long Island. The grueling Huntington Arts Scholarship application process included three weekends of live competition.
“I got a good amount of money for school,” Mrs. Ingerson said of the scholarship. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in music/vocal performance from SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.
“It was extremely helpful,” she said. “I’m paying it forward.”
A Mothers Day surprise
Last June, as Mrs. Ingerson readied for retirement, her family surprised her when they informed her that, behind the scenes, they had created the KAI Music Education Fund.
Family members who initiated the scholarship fund: husband Jerry Ingerson; daughter and son-in-law Natalia and Kyle Hatton; son and daughter-in-law Eric and Morgan Ingerson; son Anthony Ingerson; and Frederick and Anne Marie Amore, Mrs. Ingerson’s father and his wife.
The goal of the KAI Music Education Fund is to provide financial support to students in Jefferson County who possess talent, potential and are committed to pursuing higher education in music.
Startup funds from the family got the scholarship rolling, and Mrs. Ingerson held a Facebook fundraiser related to her September birthday.
The deadline to apply for the 2023 scholarship is March 17. This year, one scholarship, and possibly two, will be given at $1,000 each. They hope the scholarships will grow to $2,500 in 2024 and $5,000 the following year.
Mrs. Ingerson was informed of the scholarship in her name during a family gathering last year on Mother’s Day.
All were present in person, except for her daughter Natalia, who at the time lived in Westchester County and joined the gathering through a Facebook portal shown on the living room television. Mrs. Ingerson was presented a gift, that when opened, revealed a frame with documentation about the KAI Music Education Fund.
At first, she was confused about the “KAI” name. But she continued reading the document.
“I got three sentences in, and said, “Oh — that’s me!’ It was a funny moment because when you get blind sided with something like that, it takes a minute for you to lock into what’s happening. I was completely blown away. There are very few times when I’m speechless. It took me a second to gather my thoughts to be able to react to what I was looking at.”
But her thoughts suddenly drifted elsewhere. “I immediately thought there’s a couple of kids that I know who could really use the help.”
The first recipients of the KAI Music Education Fund, awarded in 2022: Katelyn LaMarche Nier, General Brown Class of 2018, Jefferson Community College class of 2022, and now a junior at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music; and Duncan Van Schaick, TICS class of 2021 who is now a sophomore at Crane. Each scholarship in that first year was $500.
Winners of this year’s KAI Music Education Fund scholarship will be notified by April 1. Scholarship recipients are expected to perform on the annual KAI Music Scholarship Recital program each spring. The inaugural recital is at 7 p.m. May 25 at the Clayton Opera House. The program will include last year’s and this year’s winners.
Back on track
Ms. LaMarche Nier, Potsdam, who last year wed Michael Nier, took a two-year education gap after graduating from General Brown Central School in 2018. She then entered Jefferson Community College, where she studied with Mrs. Ingerson for three semesters.
“I was hopeful to be able to come back into full-blown music studies and Kathryn helped me so much with that,” Ms. LaMarche Nier, daughter of Robert LaMarche II and Tina LaMarche, Dexter, said. “She got me ready, in a year and a half to audition to Crane, and I got in.”
Ms. LaMarche Nier performed with the Jefferson Singers, a credit-bearing humanities class at JCC. The singers are conducted by Mrs. Ingerson.
At JCC, Mrs. Ingerson also taught Class Voice, through the college’s EDGE program, and classical guitar. Students from EDGE attend high school and are taught college courses by adjunct instructors.
“She’s so insightful about not only the actual studies of music and such,” Ms. LaMarche Nier said of Mrs. Ingerson. “She understands the voice more that anybody I met.”
At Crane, Ms. LaMarche Nier is a music education major on the vocal track.
“I’m so grateful for Kathryn,” she said. “I feel like everything happens for a reason, which is what I’ve kind of learned through all of it, and through the timing.”
As for her career timetable, Ms. LaMarche Nier hopes to move back to her hometown area after graduating from Crane, ready to teach.
‘She made us work’
Mr. Van Schaick, son of Julia and Mark Van Schaick of Clayton, is a sophomore at Crane. The TICS graduate studied with Mrs. Ingerson from grades 6 to 12. He was among the Select Choir students who performed at Carnegie Hall in 2019. The Carnegie Hall performance, he said, deeply moved him.
“When we stopped singing as a choir, the sound we just made came back to us. It was how the hall was designed,” Mr. Van Schaick said. “It had this oddly chilling feeling to it because of the way it was notated.”
It was just one of the rewards he received as a member of Select Vocal Ensemble, which Mrs. Ingerson created in 1997 as she was getting the school’s vocal program on its feet with small numbers of singers.
“I couldn’t call a group of eight students, who were extremely capable by the way, a chorus of any sort,” she said. “So I came up with the moniker Select Vocal Ensemble. It seemed to fit a varying degree of size of the group that would eventually triple in size.”
Select Vocal Ensemble became the “tour choir,” performing in a variety of cities. The Carnegie Hall performance wasn’t just a matter of fundraising. The choir had to audition for the honor, and when accepted, performed under the baton of Eph Ely, a renowned conductor, author and lecturer who was named one of the most sought-after choral conductors/clinicians by The American Choral Directors Journal.
Several Northern New York past and former students have attended Carnegie Honors programs, but sending an entire chorus was a rarity and as far as Mrs. Ingerson knows, a first for the area. The honors program at Carnegie challenges “elite” students to perform at their best.
“She made us work,” Mr. Van Schaick said. “I’m glad that she did because it made us all better musicians. It was also the encouragement she gave. She made learning the new pieces fun.”
‘Sweet’ fundraising approach
The annual Dessert Theater and Silent Auction celebrated its 25th anniversary last week, the first without Mrs. Ingerson at the helm. Its creation, she said, “was a natural progression of events.”
“We wanted to feature an all-pops program that included Broadway selections,” she said. “To do this well, we included a pit orchestra so it was more like a high level Broadway show.”
Meanwhile, desserts were offered to the public as part of the ticket price, along with a silent auction of items and services donated by local merchants.
“The event accomplished many things,” Mrs. Ingerson said. “It gave the kids the full performance experience while raising most of the money needed for our trips. There was no booster club for our music department, so the parents picked up the workload of organizing the various aspects.”
Money from the Dessert Theater and Silent Auction helped to fund annual trips to New York State School Music Association evaluations, where Mrs. Ingerson’s students consistently earned “gold and gold with distinction” and to other events. Getting students on the road was important for the instructor.
“I felt as though the kids at TI hadn’t been out of town or done much elsewhere, musically or otherwise,” Mrs. Ingerson said. “That’s why I started fundraising, so they could take these trips and go to various cities. They’ve been to a dozen different cities in the U.S. and Canada.”
She’s especially proud of the Carnegie Hall trip. “They worked really hard to get there. They had to audition, but then work doubly hard to get the funds to do it. That was a big undertaking.”
The trips, she believes, also accomplished something else.
“Kids are goal-oriented,” Mrs. Ingerson said. “I never considered music as a competition. But in these situations, when you’re trying to do your personal best, the kids needed something tangible. They needed to know, ‘OK, this is what I need to do to attain this.’ I think that resonated very quickly with kids. They wanted to do well.”
A program of substance
Mrs. Ingerson began her tenure at TICS as a long-term substitute from 1982-84. She then took a 12-year hiatus as she taught privately. She returned to the district in 1996 and was soon offered the opportunity to coordinate the music department.
“What I realized the most was that we needed to grow the program, we needed to have more substance to the music,” she said. “I don’t mean it had to be classical music or any particular type. I felt as though the music the kids were used to singing, performing and studying just wasn’t giving them everything. My part was to expose them to a great variety of music.”
Concerts she directed featured lots of ethnic tunes, often sung in foreign languages.
“Our students, regardless of age, have sung in Hebrew, French, German, Creole, Swahili, Portuguese, Latin, Italian and have identified with the cultures of the people of these languages,” Mrs. Ingerson said. “It’s been so rewarding to watch this process and know how genuinely the kids became acquainted with not only each piece, but appreciating the world around them.”
Many of Mrs. Ingerson’s students have gone on as music professionals — either as teaching or performing — “an amazing byproduct” and not her intended main focus.
The mission statement of the scholarship in her name has an ultimate goal of ensuring that “quality music professionals continue to enhance the life of our communities, schools and world through their passionate work.”
“You’re paying it forward,” Mrs. Ingerson said. “You are making sure that this wonderful gift that we have in this world of music is a way to unify people. I don’t mean to be overly philosophical about it. But we have to take care that this is something that we’ll always have in our culture, our communities and schools. It’s so vitally important.”
Mrs. Ingerson and the scholarship foundation will continue that mission.
“By helping in some small way with the scholarship and being able to know it’s going to two or three kids a year and to know they’re able to continue and these are our future music professionals that will be in our communities, in our schools and bringing music to the world? That is huge.”
WHAT: The KAI Music Education Fund is a nonprofit organization established in 2022 by the Ingerson family upon the retirement of Kathryn Amore Ingerson from public school teaching.
DEADLINE: Scholarship applications are available in January of each year with a deadline of March 17.
REQUIREMENTS: Along with a completed application, each individual is required to provide two letters of recommendation from instructors, complete an essay detailing goals in music and provide an audition video.
TO SUBMIT: All documents submitted online through the KAI Music Education Fund website and its email address: email@example.com
REVIEW PROCESS: All parts of the application will be reviewed by a committee of music professionals and KAI Music Fund administrators. Recipients will be informed of their selection by April 1. Scholarship recipients are expected to perform on the annual KAI Music Scholarship Recital program in the spring of each year. This year’s program is at 7 p.m. May 25 at the Clayton Opera House.
ON THE WEB: kaimusicfund.org
DONATIONS: Can be made at the above website or by mail by sending funds made out to the KAI Music Education Fund. Donations can be mailed to 15322 Heritage Drive, Clayton, NY 13624.
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