Honoring our piano pioneers

A new piano performance scholarship is named in honor of Marilyn Lynch and Phyllis Vogel, faculty who built the piano program at NC State and helped shape the music department.

When an anonymous donor made a generous gift to endow a new piano performance scholarship in the Department of Music, they left it up to the department to name the scholarship. Former department head Bob Petters, who has taught in the music department since 1976, recommended that the scholarship be named for two women who each played a pivotal role in developing the piano program at NC State—Dr. Phyllis Vogel and Marilyn Lynch.

Vogel, the first woman hired in the Department of Music in 1975, established the department’s first music theory courses called Rudiments of Music. Vogel’s classes were the first to utilize the department’s new, state-of-the-art Wurlitzer electric piano lab in the newly built Price Music Center. She went on to also teach composition, women in music, applied piano lessons and more, and to conduct the chamber singers, as well as performing regularly in recitals. At the time of her hire, however, there were no music minors, no private applied lessons, and several of the music courses on offer were only taught to NC State students by faculty at Meredith College through the Cooperating Raleigh Colleges (CRC) agreement, including group piano lessons for beginners. 

In the fall of 1979, Marilyn Lynch took over the group piano courses from her Meredith College colleague Rennie Beyer and was immediately faced with plummeting enrollment when the university stopped listing CRC courses in the catalog for NC State students. The program struggled until then-Chancellor Bruce Poulton’s wife enrolled in Lynch’s course and loved it so much that she advocated to have it offered for credit at NC State. That made it much easier to recruit students and soon the department was offering six full sections of class piano each semester. Lynch was hired full-time at NC State in 1988. 

The music department continued to grow, and with the introduction of the music minor in 1993, Vogel and Lynch both began teaching applied piano lessons to music performance minors. 

“It has been very exciting [to watch the music department grow] because from the time I first started teaching there when piano was minimized—in fact, nonexistent except for these beginner classes—and then to see it grow, to see possibilities opening and to be able to put performance students in recitals, and to have the music minors give full solo recitals, it’s kind of mind-boggling,” said Lynch. “And it happened maybe within the scope of ten years. It really bloomed.”

Vogel said she and Lynch started holding joint recitals for their piano students each semester in the old Talley Student Center in what was then the museum space, in front of huge windows with a beautiful view of the Raleigh skyline. “When we got big enough, we went to the ballroom and started putting on the concert there, because we got big audiences,” said Vogel. “It was quite an exciting time for us.”

Michael Arrowood, Phyllis Vogel and Marilyn Lynch bow following their performance of an Oct. 1997 concert titled “Dueling Harpsichords” in Stewart Theatre. The three  performed with a string quintet which included current applied lecturer of double bass Leonid Finkelshteyn. Photo courtesy of Phyllis Vogel.
(TOP PHOTO) Phyllis Vogel teaches rudiments of music in the state-of-the-art Wurlitzer electric piano lab in the newly opened Price Music Center in the mid-1970s. University Archives Photograph Collection. Visual and performing arts (UA023.027), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries.

Vogel and Lynch performed in several concerts together at NC State, on harpsichord and piano. They were early pioneers in the university’s distance education program, teaching classes in large television studios for both in-person and remote students, as well as public broadcast courses that could be viewed locally by anyone on their TV.

Thanks in large part to the leadership of Vogel and Lynch, the music department’s course offerings now include multiple levels of music theory and class piano available to all students at the university, and their work paved the way for the educational opportunities currently offered to pianists through the music minor.

Despite their groundbreaking work and their impact on the music department, Vogel and Lynch were both surprised and delighted to learn of the new scholarship named in their honor. The Marilyn Lynch and Phyllis Vogel Piano Performance Scholarship is a four-year renewable scholarship which will require an audition and support student pianists in their musical development.

“I was shocked,” said Vogel. “So shocked and overwhelmed, and I’m glad I’ve lived [long enough] to see this happen. I guess that’s how I really feel. I’m so glad for this donor and that all of you thought enough to include me in this, is really the truth.”

Lynch had a similar reaction. “First of all, I was flabbergasted because I did not expect it,” she said. “Certainly I am honored beyond belief…I’m terribly honored to know that this scholarship in our names will help provide for future piano students, and also, not just showing them support but showing support for the music program and the music department. It’s fantastic.”

Both recognize that there’s something unique about the music department at NC State, which Lynch refers to as “not your run-of-the-mill music department.”

“I always went to work every day with a feeling of pride and excitement that I was going to the department within NC State University,” said Lynch. “It was an exciting time for me. I was always happy to be there, always happy to be doing what I was doing. I appreciated that opportunity to work for the university and with these fantastic students. It was a happy part of my life so what more can I ask? I look back on it with pride and with gratitude to have been part of that.” ♫

Music Scholarships are a lifeline for students struggling with the costs of a college education and encourage talented students to continue their musical journey as they earn their degree. You can help make the dream of college education a reality for future generations by giving to the Marilyn Lynch and Phyllis Vogel Piano Performance Scholarship. Visit music.arts.ncsu.edu/giving to make your gift. 

If you are interested in creating your own scholarship endowment within the Department of Music, contact Peyton Stokley, director of arts development at 919.513.4101.