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Playing it forward

A donation unlike any other will provide opportunities to those living in rural communities to play the flute

“Music is math with feeling” — this T-shirt slogan captures the belief of Ruth Maurer, PhD, who contributed $156,000 to the Colorado Mesa University Department of Music to promote the flute in rural communities. Maurer, a mathematician by training, chose to contribute to the Department of Music because although mathematics gave her a career, the flute gave her a voice. Maurer is an accomplished flutist, having played the flute since she was 12-years-old.

Maurer was born on a farm in rural Colorado. Her remarkable mind led her from “milking cows” to earning a PhD and teaching at a premier scientific institution. When she joined the faculty at the Colorado School of Mines in the 1970s, she represented one of the few female professors at the institution. Maurer’s career is one of breaking barriers — a fact evidenced not only by her PhD but also by her insistence that life is not a binary either-or proposition. According to Maurer, math and science, and the arts are complementary and in life we can have both.

Her endowment for rural flute players is unlike any other known to the National Flute Association (NFA). When the organization heard of her idea, they explored ways to partner with Maurer and CMU to extend music, through the flute, to rural places.

“Rural kids don’t have all the advantages that people in urban places have,” said Maurer. “It’s about time we do something about it.” The Maurer endowment, in partnership with NFA, will host an annual flute contest at CMU for rural high school students. The prize will include membership to the NFA as well as a trip to the association’s annual conference.

Head of the Department of Music Calvin Hoffer, DMA, expressed enthusiasm about Maurer’s motivations and her donation.

“Rural places face challenges when it comes to socioeconomic disadvantage,” said Hofer. “I’ve witnessed the transformative power of music in my career and commend Ruth and the NFA for vision and leadership giving rural students opportunity.”

When asked why the gift was made to CMU, she smiled and said the fact that she was once a teacher to CMU President Tim Foster wasn’t connected to her decision. “I just feel at home in CMU’s music community,” said Maurer.

“The flute always plays the melody. The flute sings. I can’t sing but I can play the flute, so it gives me a voice.” She hopes her endowment can give other people looking to find their way the same gift.

“Ruth Maurer is a remarkable woman who once again is ahead of her time and is a pioneer example for young people today,” said Foster. “The creativity of her gift is what CMU is all about and I look forward to seeing her vision help young flute players become like her.”


Written by David Ludlam