Bill Brent, who spent a career mentoring young musicians, particularly those who intended to teach music, announced a planned gift to benefit students with a desire to positively impact a new generation of musicians. Brent, longtime director of Northwestern State University’s Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts, created the William Erwin Brent Endowed Director’s Fund and the Edna Mae and Erwin Jessie Brent Endowed Scholarship in Music Education through a bequest to the NSU Foundation.
Seventy-five percent of the planned gift will go towards the scholarship that honors his parents, Edna Mae and Erwin Jessie Brent. The scholarship will be awarded to a music education major with a grade point average of 3.0 or better who has passed the Praxis exam and is engaged in student teaching.
“Currently, these students lose their performance scholarships because they can not participate in music ensembles while student teaching. So, this will be a way to help make-up the difference for them,” Brent said.
Twenty-five percent of the planned gift will go towards the William Erwin Brent Endowed Director’s Fund, to be used at the discretion of the CAPA director to support faculty and students as needed.
Brent served NSU for 30 years as director of bands and as director of the School of Creative and Performing Arts. He was the inaugural inductee into the Mrs. H.D. Dear Sr. and Alice E. Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts Hall of Fame, one of many accomplishments he earned during his long career. He retired from administrative duties and band in 2013 but continues to be involved in special projects as needed in CAPA.
Brent’s first memory of music was in the church where he grew up where his mother played piano and his father was a vocalist and involved in the music program. He began studying piano in second grade, started band in the fifth grade and choir in the sixth grade, which he continued throughout his high school career, in addition to studying organ in high school.
“I absolutely loved being in band and, in the 8th grade I wanted to stop taking piano lessons. My dad told me I could do that but I would have to stop being in band. So, I continued to take piano lessons and it was possibly the best thing my dad ever did for me. It wasn’t until I got into college that I realized how much further along I was than many of my peers who were having to learn piano from scratch. Many of them struggled. I had no problems placing out of piano studies and continued to study piano for a while in college,” Brent said.
Brent said the ideal recipient of the Edna Mae and Erwin Jessie Brent Endowed Scholarship in Music Education would be one who has worked hard to achieve goals both musically and academically.
“The student would have participated in numerous ensembles and been supportive of their fellow students,” Brent said. “It would be a person who tries to ‘lead by example,’ which is a phrase I used often with the band students.”
Brent said he feels blessed to work with outstanding CAPA faculty, staff and students as well as serve on committees across campus with numerous outstanding faculty and staff.
“I was fortunate to have four different presidents, several academic vice presidents and numerous deans who realized the importance of the arts and a well-rounded arts programs,” Brent said. “I also have to thank Ladell Conley, office administrator, who worked with me for nearly 30 years, keeping me on task and on time with so many aspects of the band and CAPA.”
Brent said both CAPA and the NSU bands are stronger than ever due to the new leadership of his successors, Dr. Greg Handel, CAPA director, and Dr. Jeff Mathews, director of bands.
“These endowments are a small effort on my part to say ‘thank you’ to NSU and Natchitoches and to encourage others to remember to ‘give back’ so that we can ‘give forward’ in the future,” Brent said.