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Zimmerman Foundation's gift to benefit music school, Krannert Center

Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Music education and performance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will receive a significant boost from a $2.65 million gift to the School of Music and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts from the Vernon K. and Marilyn Pflederer Zimmerman Foundation.

The gift, announced today, includes $1.65 million for the music school, and another $1 million for the campus performing arts center. In the School of Music, the gift will establish the Marilyn Pflederer Zimmerman Fund for Excellence in Music Education. The fund will support an endowed chair and fellowships in music education.

Marilyn Zimmerman, who died in 1995, is widely regarded as one of the most influential scholars to contribute to the field of music education. Zimmerman’s groundbreaking research focused on the relationship of children’s musical activities and the role perception plays in musical-cognitive development, and how that may influence and improve instruction in the music classroom. An alumna of the School of Music, Zimmerman earned a master’s degree in 1955 and a doctorate in music education in 1963. Until 1964, she served as an instructor in the school, and returned later as a visiting professor for three years. From 1987-1993, she was a professor on the faculty. In between appointments at Illinois, Zimmerman taught at several other schools, including Case Western Reserve, Indiana, Northwestern, Ohio State and Temple universities.

The foundation’s gift to Krannert Center reflects the Zimmermans’ interest in the performing arts. The gift is an unrestricted endowment to support the center's Marquee performance series. The series is designed to give students and community residents the opportunity to sample a wide selection of performances by visiting artists from a variety of musical genres.

Vernon and Marilyn Zimmerman were charter subscribers to the Marquee Circle when it was established 15 years ago. The Marquee Circle recognizes donors whose yearly gifts of $1,000 or more support performances by visiting professional artists appearing during Krannert Center’s Marquee Season.

“The gifts from the Zimmerman Foundation will help the university in its crucial mission of public engagement, reaching out through music education and performance to bring the arts – with all their power to enrich and transform lives – to a public of all ages and interests,” said Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of the Urbana campus.

According to Kathleen Conlin, the dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, the administrative home of the School of Music and Krannert Center, the gift will be a part of “Bravo! Illinois Arts,” a $21 million endowment campaign to benefit several entities within FAA. Endowed gifts to the campaign will provide opportunities to enhance performances, educational programs and public service.

Conlin called the Zimmerman gift “a tremendous honor” for the recipient units and for the college.

“This generous endowment enables us to re-envision, for the 21st century and beyond, the role that early education in music provides not only for the individual but also for our community’s cultural development,” Conlin said. “As a result of this gift, research at the highest level of scholarly excellence is guaranteed within our comprehensive, distinguished School of Music – supported by our library, studios, labs and performing spaces.

“Including the Krannert Center within their vision for artistic excellence secures for the community at large the presentation of superb national and internationally known performers. What a fitting tribute to the legacy of Vernon and Marilyn Zimmerman!”

The Champaign-based Zimmerman Foundation was established by Vernon Zimmerman, prior to his death in 1996. Vernon Zimmerman, an early leader in the field of international accounting, served as the dean of the College of Commerce and Business Administration for 15 years, and was a member of the college faculty from 1956 to 1992.