Patel Scholarship Student Story: Abigale Pfingsten

Ten dollar donation here, one hundred dollars there, twenty five dollars, fifteen dollars … and that’s how just four people make it possible for a child to enter her first piano lesson on scholarship. In the case of Abigale Pfingsten, that first lesson led to an arts education at the Patel Conservatory that helped her land another scholarship — this one at Carnegie Mellon University to study international politics and, of course, the performing arts.

Every single dollar matters. Each one, added to others from other donors, makes it possible for us to respond “we have scholarships for your child” to all the emails we receive from parents who want to give their children the best possible opportunities in life but don’t know how they can afford lessons in music, dance and theater.

Most donors don’t ever see the effects of their gifts past the stage lights. Of course donors make it possible for us to program great artists and keep our lights on, but the real drama unfolds hour by hour in the Patel Conservatory classrooms when children and teenagers experience the awe-inspiring awakening of their creative power. Suddenly, they can do more than they thought they could, they can work together to solve a problem, they learn how to struggle past fear and doubt to deliver their lines alone on stage to a sea of strange faces. They dream. They do. They achieve. They gain emotional intelligence and an appreciation of the educational value of mistakes. They learn to improvise and build something greater than themselves with their unique talents.

Yes, they can play scales, execute a grand plié in fourth position and hit the high notes in Les Mis. Some Patel Conservatory students go on to television, Broadway tours and work as principle dancers in world-renowned ballet companies. But most of our students move forward in lives out of the spotlight, with characters shaped by the discipline, the triumphs and the demands of performing an art. In all that work and fun, they find their passion, and they go on to make life better for others.

At nine years old, Abigale Pfingsten won a scholarship to study piano with John Hernandez at the Patel Conservatory. Little did she know that taste of her own innate talent would lead to almost a decade of immersion in all aspects of the performing arts. She developed a passion that would set the course of her life.

“John Hernandez is an amazing, fantastic teacher who took me to new levels of what I can do with piano. I loved learning from him so much,” she says. “Then, that first summer I tried out for Seussical, got a part, and loved it, too. From that point forward, I expanded my horizons, studying ballet, musical theater, continuing my piano training. I found my passion in the performing arts, and I never would have been able to make these discoveries without the scholarships graciously provided by so many people who love of the arts.”

Abigale left us last year after winning a scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University to study international politics and minor in music. Her dream? To one day build a performing arts conservatory to give to others what The Straz gave to her.

So, the cycle of giving pays it forward in tangible ways for uncountable lives. And every single gift cobbles together enough financial fuel to power the dreams of the future into the stories that will shape tomorrow’s world.