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Scholarship highlights music program at North Hills

| Monday, July 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Pat Hunter (left) and Karen Johnson (right) donated $30,000 to create the Hunter Music Scholarship at North Hills Senior High School in memory of their parents, Harold and Kathlyn Hunter. The North Hills alumnae pose with Elisabeth Spear, 18, of Ross Township, the first scholarship recipient, in the spring of 2013.
Pat Hunter (left) and Karen Johnson (right) donated $30,000 to create the Hunter Music Scholarship at North Hills Senior High School in memory of their parents, Harold and Kathlyn Hunter. The North Hills alumnae pose with Elisabeth Spear, 18, of Ross Township, the first scholarship recipient, in the spring of 2013.

North Hills Senior High School alumnae Pat Hunter of Virginia and Karen Johnson of Connecticut are honoring the memory of their parents — Harold and Kathlyn Hunter — by making one of the largest scholarship donations in the North Hills School District's history.

The sisters recently contributed $30,000 to create the Hunter Music Scholarship for students at the Ross Township school. It will award at least $500 to one senior each year who is involved in the school's music program but is not pursuing music as a career.

“Music was always playing in our home,” explained Hunter, a 1961 North Hills graduate who sang in the school choir and played the violin in the school orchestra.

She fondly recalls family picnics, gatherings and holidays that inevitably would erupt into festive evenings of music, with their father playing the banjo; their mother playing the piano; and family and friends joining in with guitars, violins and singing.

“None of us became professional musicians, but we certainly used our musical talents with and for others,” said Hunter, who also played in the orchestra and string quartet and sang in the a cappella choir while attending Clarion State University before later joining the Mendelssohn Choir in Pittsburgh and the Madrigal Singers at Virginia Highlands Community College. She spent her career as a librarian at the college.

“We want to foster that same attitude of continuing to increase and use those talents throughout life as a living memorial to our parents.”

Johnson agreed.

“We felt there are many other scholarship opportunities for students pursuing music as a career,” said Johnson, who played the flute in the high school's concert band, graduated in 1968 and continues to sing and play the English handbells for her church and community groups.

“After our parents retired to Florida, our visits often included performing at a retirement facility or singing in church,” Johnson said. “It was just part of our lives. And now that they're gone, it still is.”

Funds for the Hunter Music Scholarship will be provided by the interest earned on the principal.

Scholarship candidates must be nominated by a school-district music teacher and have a minimum 2.5 cumulative grade-point average through the first semester of their senior year. They also must write an essay on how music influences their life and goals, including how the scholarship could help them to achieve those goals. The recipient is selected by a committee appointed by the North Hills Senior High principal, appropriate administrators and faculty, including at least one music teacher.

One of this year's graduates — Elisabeth “Elsa” Spear, 18, of Ross Township — is the first recipient of the Hunter Music Scholarship.

While at North Hills, Spear played the French horn in the marching band and wind ensemble, in addition to performing in the past three senior high musicals. She plans to attend Geneva College in Beaver Falls to pursue a degree in English education.

“Elsa is a dynamic individual who excels academically and with her extracurricular activities,” senior high Principal John Kreider, 45, of Ross Township said. “We're always thankful for the generosity of our alumni. Karen and Pat are a special group of alumni. They are great, caring people with the best interests of the students at heart.”

Hunter said the scholarship looks both to the past and the future.

“This scholarship is to honor our parents' talents and memory and to encourage a young musician to share their musical talents throughout their life,” Hunter said.

“We think our parents would approve.”

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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