Ann Callaway Brown Endowment Fund for the UT String Project
Both Ann and I are graduates of The University of Texas at Austin. We met each other as undergraduates. It was love at first sight, and we have been happily married for nearly 49 years.
Ann was majoring in English with a minor in French. I was majoring in botany. After we both completed our undergraduate degrees in the early 1960s, I continued graduate studies in botany. I taught biology at Concordia High School while Ann taught at the Catholic Middle School to help put me through graduate school.
I earned a Ph.D. in Botany at UT Austin in 1964. After a summer as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Botany, I was hired as an assistant professor in the department, which was ranked No. 1 in the nation. I held this position until August 1968 when our family went to Freiburg, West Germany on an NSF Fellowship. Returning from Germany, we moved to Chapel Hill, N.C., where I was hired as an associate professor of botany. We stayed there until 1982 when the call came from the UT Austin Department of Botany to return to its top faculty, this time as the first holder of the newly created Johnson & Johnson Centennial Chair in Plant Cell Biology. I have held this chair until the present. We have had long and wonderful ties to UT Austin. Our children, David Malcolm and Julie Christine Brown, graduated from UT Austin as fifth-generation Texas Exes.
When Ann was a little girl living in Austin, she enrolled in the Junior String Project at UT, as it was then named, and she learned how to play the violin. Ann benefited from this program for more than 10 years and became the concertmistress of the Junior String Project Orchestra. The UT Junior String Project always has been a sweet spot in Ann’s life. Everyone in the Brown family is musical and loves and appreciates music.
Early that morning, I gazed out Ann’s window toward the University, and there was the UT Tower in all its glory basking in the reflected light of the rising sun! I immediately took Ann’s camera and captured this beautiful scene. Three minutes later, it was gone.
I showed the photo to Mr. Mitchell and his staff, and they agreed to sell this photo, with all proceeds going to the Ann Callaway Brown Endowment Fund.
Early on, I asked Ann where she would like the donated funds to go and what she would like to support. When I mentioned the Junior String Project, her eyes lit up and she responded with a resounding “yes.” This is how our contribution to the String Project at UT Austin came into being. We are so proud and happy to be able to contribute to this noble project!
Ann and I both immediately felt joy when her Junior String Project was mentioned as a possible source for an endowment. After a heartwarming visit by Dr. Laurie Scott, director of the UT String Project, we became all the more convinced that this was the right place and the right time to make this contribution.
Music is an essential ingredient in the lives of all of us. To be lucky enough to have matriculated through a university-sponsored project such as the Junior String Project that Ann attended really changed her life forever. With our meeting between two like musical minds, we are in perfect “harmony” about the value of young children being given an opportunity to actually study and learn music.
The University of Texas String Project has the potential to literally change the lives of thousands of young people. The “bottleneck” is not the number of students who want to enroll in the project. It is in the space to house the project. Last year, more than 700 students were turned away from enrollment due to space limitations.
The Butler School of Music also believes in the String Project, and it is hoped that, through contributions to the Ann Callaway Brown Endowment for the UT String Project, funds can be raised for a new building as well as operating funds to enhance this valuable program to the University, the community, and the state of Texas.
We believe that the human spirit requires music for fulfillment. To help meet these goals, this endowment will give more young people a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to literally “fall in love with music.” Thus, if even one additional child can benefit because of this endowment, Ann and I will have been fulfilled immensely.
I am from a musical family. My mother, Clementine, was a pianist and piano teacher. My father, a physician, was nominated to play in John Philip Sousa’s All American Band in Chicago when he was a young high school student from Dalhart, Texas. I started piano lessons at age 5 in my hometown, Pampa, Texas, and nearly became a concert pianist. Over the years, I always had “tunes” in my head but was not able to write the music because I have dyslexia. When I acquired a Roland KR 1070 Digital Grand Piano in 1997, I was able to instantly transfer my music ideas into MIDI format. That launched my “avocation” as a composer.
Our daughter, Julie, has a master’s degree in vocal performance from the Meadows School in Dallas, and our son, David, is an excellent pianist. Ann’s mother and sister, Jane, are very musical, and the Callaway family always appreciated classical music. They encouraged Ann to start taking violin lessons with the Junior String Project when she was about 6 years old, just a few years after the project was organized by Dr. Albert Gillis, right after World War II. Music has been in the blood of both families and is here to stay.
Each summer, Ann and I have gone to Aspen to attend concerts at the Aspen Music Festival. When I was a boy, I heard Albert Schweitzer perform there on his only trip to the U.S. It has been a joy for us to take summer vacations in Aspen. Sadly, on July 17, 2009, the very day that we were to have left for our vacation, Ann suffered her stroke. We hope we can return to our beloved Aspen!
We are thankful to our University, our alma mater, my professional employer over the years, and to the alumni and friends like you who can “tune in with us” on this trip to help young people learn great music. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!