Morris Arts announces scholarship winners

Leah Suskind and Matt Wisotsky

MORRIS COUNTY — Each year, Morris Arts offers two scholarship opportunities for graduating high school seniors who have exhibited artistic excellence in dance, drama, music, or visual arts and plan to pursue post-secondary studies at an accredited institution or acknowledged arts school or fine arts program. The Elaine Ehlers Arts Scholarship, in the amount of $5,000, and The Eugenie Coladarci Arts Scholarship, in the amount of $1,500, were created to recognize artistic excellence, encourage the artists of the future, and to celebrate the value of the arts to the human experience.

Morris County high school seniors graduating in June 2019 who are currently attending public, private, or parochial school or who are home schooled in New Jersey were eligible. Applicants must also (a) be Morris County residents, (b) plan to pursue post-secondary studies at an accredited institution or acknowledged arts school or fine arts program, and (c) have demonstrated artistic excellence in any one of four arts disciplines: dance, drama, music, or visual arts.

The Elaine Ehlers Arts Scholarship was established in 2002 in memory of Elaine Ehlers (1953-2001), a health-care administrator by profession, who had a voracious appetite for all things artistic and musical.  She derived intellectual and emotional sustenance from the arts and supported programs at many museums and musical institutions.  By establishing this scholarship, an enduring legacy has been created to reward those who possess artistic talent and who plan to further their arts education.

This year’s Ehlers Scholarship winner, dancer Leah Suskind , is a graduating senior at the Morris County School of Technology/ Academy for Visual and Performing Arts and, next fall, will pursue a Bachelors of Fine Arts as a Dance Major at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. A Finalist Winner for the National Dance Education Organization Artistic Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement Award, a three-time winner at the Teen Arts Festival (County College of Morris) and winner of numerous scholarships, overall awards and judges’ awards for competition dance, Leah received scholarships from Rutgers Pre-College Dance Conservatory, Ballet Forté, and the New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble. Additionally, she has pursued training at the highly competitive Summer Intensives / Programs at Juilliard, NYU Tisch Summer High School Dance Program, Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, RIOULT, the Rockettes, Bailar Al Sol Dance Festival, West Side Dance Center, NextStep Dance Company and has performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. One recommendation cited Leah’s “command of multiple genres” and her “creativity and technical skill in dance” while another stated, “As a dance professional for over 30 years, there have only been a few students whom I would highly recommend for seeking a dance career and Leah is one of them.”   For her application, she performed both “competition” style work and her original work, Illuminate. She choreographed Illuminate “in honor of one of my younger brothers who was recently a victim of an anti-Semitic hate crime at our synagogue’s Holocaust Remembrance Service late April.” The work eloquently communicated Leah’s “sadness for the past and hope for the future” and the panel found her performance deeply moving, technically demanding, artistically mature and exquisitely executed.

The Eugenie Coladarci Arts Scholarship was first awarded in 1999 in memory of Eugenie R. Coladarci, who was Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations at Chase Manhattan Bank and an active member of Morris Arts for eleven years. She was completing her first term as Board Chair when she passed away in 1997.  As a statewide champion of the arts, Genie encouraged the development of young artists and believed in the value of the arts to the quality of life.  The idea of a scholarship to assist talented young people wishing to continue their study in the arts was very important to her.

Sophia Grace Donelan

This year’s Coladarci Scholarship winner is soprano Sophia Grace Donelan, a graduating senior at Villa Walsh Academy, who hopes to pursue a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance at a major conservatory and, eventually, to become a professional opera singer  With extensive training in voice, acting and dance, Sophia qualified for the 2018 summer Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Vocal Program where she studied voice, music theory, music history, diction, movement/bodywork and art song recitals, sang the role of Frasquita in the “Card Trio” from Carmen, soloed in the West Side Story Medley, sang for the Master Class with Mezzo Kelly O’Connor and performed with the BSO Chorus under John Williams.  A National Semi-Finalist in the High School Division/Classical Singer Music Vocal Competition, she was also a National Finalist in the New York Lyric Opera Vocal Competition (High School Division). One recommender stated “I believe this lovely young lady has the beautiful instrument, musical intelligence and emotional fortitude to become a great singing actor.”  Another states, “In my forty plus years of teaching and conducting, I can say without reservation that Sophia is truly exceptional!”…The panel felt Sophia was far more advanced and well trained than most singers her age. Impressed by her refined and skilled performance of challenging repertoire in three languages, panelists noted her beautiful tone quality, accurate intonation, clear diction, breath control, well-shaped phrasing, wide dynamic range as well as her understanding of and ability to expressively convey the meaning of the texts she sang.

The panel also felt strongly about awarding an Honorable Mention to acknowledge the accomplishments of multi-instrumentalist, prize-winning composer and outstanding bassoonist, Matt Wisotsky, who is a graduating senior at West Morris Mendham High School. According to one recommendation, “he has proven to be one of the finest young musicians I have encountered in over forty-five years of teaching.”

The winners were introduced at the Thursday, March 14 opening reception for the new exhibit, seeing the unseen, featuring works by ten outstanding artists and guest curated by Greg Leshé, in the Gallery.

Morris Arts, located in Morristown, is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1973 dedicated to building community through the arts. Using the arts to inspire, connect and engage, Morris Arts serves as a resource for Morris County with a special focus on arts programming in the schools and in the community, arts advocacy, creative placemaking and support of the Morris Area community of artists and arts organizations.