UMC Links

$1.25 Million Gift Creates Chair in Choral Studies

Dec. 10, 2007 – The University of Utah’s School of Music has a newly endowed chair in choral studies, thanks to a generous gift from Kem and Carolyn Gardner. Worth $1.25 million, the gift was announced Saturday evening at the University Choirs Holiday Concert at Libby Gardner Concert Hall, which featured performances by the acclaimed University of Utah Singers, a mixed choir comprised of 47 students led by Dr. Brady Allred. It was also announced that Allred will be the first holder of the new chair, named the Ellen Neilson Barnes Presidential Endowed Chair for Choral Studies.

“This extraordinary gift will add to the strength and reputation of the School of Music,” said Raymond Tymas-Jones, associate vice president for the arts. “We are deeply grateful to the Gardners.”

The Gardners’ gift recognizes the excellence of the choral studies program in the School of Music, which has gained international recognition under Allred’s direction. Last year, Allred and the University Singers completed a triumphant concert tour of France and Spain where they won the European Grand Prix International Choir Competition in Tolosa, Spain.

This summer they returned to Europe to perform at the 12th International Choir Festival en Provence, the Festival des Choeurs Lauréats, and the 19th Festival “Choralies de Vaison-la-Romaine,” France. They have also been featured on French National Television at the Nancy International Choir Festival in Nancy, France and in concerts throughout Spain, France, Germany and The Netherlands.

The gift honors Carolyn Gardner’s late mother, Ellen Cornelia Neilson Barnes, a talented musician and music educator. After graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 1922, Barnes taught popular courses in music practice, appreciation and theory in the U’s department of music for several years. She and her family then moved to Washington D.C., where she served as a member of the National Symphony Board, the Washington Performing Arts Society, the Washington Opera Society and the Ballet Society. For many years, Barnes served as director and conductor of the Singing Mothers Chorus, an acclaimed ensemble of mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers that toured extensively, including performances at several World Fairs.

“Kem and I are proud to pay tribute to my mother, Ellen Neilson Barnes, a wonderful mother and grandmother, who touched so many lives through music,” says Carolyn Gardner. “We are delighted to support the choral program at the U, which has brought joy to so many not just in Utah, but across the world. We feel honored that Professor Allred will hold the Chair as we have enjoyed so much his enormous talent and remarkable choral direction.”

“Our choral ensembles continue the work of Ellen Barnes to bring light to the world through song, and this gift provides a legacy for that work at the U,” says Tymas-Jones. “We are all so very proud of our choral ensembles,” adds Robert Walzel, director of the U’s School of Music. “They represent our entire student body. The Gardners have honored us all with this wonderful gift.”

Kem Gardner received his bachelor of arts in 1967 and a juris doctorate in 1970 from the University of Utah.

Carolyn Gardner is a member of the College of Fine Arts Advisory Board at the University of Utah and has served for several years as a volunteer tutor in reading and math at Mountain View Elementary. She received her bachelor of science in 1969 from the University of Utah.