EDUCATOR PROVES A LITTLE CAN GO A LONG WAY
Betsy Cook Weber’s passion for music developed at an early age — even her childhood dream was to become a music teacher. Dreams do come true; she is the director of undergraduate choral studies at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. That long title has its genesis in a small scholarship.
Raised near Hobby Airport, Weber loved and admired her music teachers. “I wanted to grow up to be just like them,” Weber says. She wanted to follow their footsteps, and planned to major in music education at North Texas State University in Denton. “Back then, NTSU had the best music education program,” Weber says.
Just as she set her heart on North Texas State (now called the University of North Texas), her father suffered a back injury that forced Weber’s family into a financial bind. Her parents told her they could still afford college tuition, but not room and board. Determined to chase her dream, Weber began the process of finding a way to earn money.
It was during this time, in 1970, that Ross Sterling High School faculty members established a college scholarship by pulling $450 together. Weber was awarded the money. She still gets teary-eyed when she recalls how much that scholarship meant to her. “[That] doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it was enough to spur me on my way,” she says. “It got me thinking that with a part-time job, I could just make it. Small scholarships are huge gifts to students like me on the economic edge.”
Four years later, she earned her Bachelor of Music degree from NTSU and began her full-time music education career at Wilchester Elementary in the Spring Branch school district. “I earned $7,800 a year. That amount is emblazoned on my mind forever,” Weber says. “It helped me realize how difficult it was for my Sterling High teachers to raise the funds for my scholarship.”
Wanting to perpetuate the spirit of giving, Weber found a way to save $450 from her own small teaching salary. She took the money to the choral director at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and requested it be anonymously donated to a deserving student. “I asked her to find a student like me who wanted to major in music education. I trusted her to find the right person,” Weber says.
More than 30 years later, learned who received the precious $450 scholarship she had donated during her first year of teaching. The student was Jan Taylor, who is now the choral director at Prairie View A&M University. Taylor is also in the doctoral program at Moores School of Music and Weber is among her faculty advisors.
Since that first donation, Weber has kept up and expanded her scholarship contributions. She and her husband Rick now fund a heftier music education scholarship. The two will be honored for their generosity and dedication by the Moores Society at the annual dinner and concert Feb. 23. The event is the major fundraiser for the Moores School of Music.
Constantly teaching and coaching musicians, Weber has taught in public schools and at the University of Houston; she served for nearly 10 years as the assistant choral director for the Houston Symphony. Today, she concentrates on directing college vocal ensembles. Under Weber’s guidance, the Moores School Concert Chorale wowed its audience at the American Choral Directors biennial convention in Miami in March. Moores’ concert chorale received two standing ovations. “It is the equivalent of winning the national championship in football,” Weber said.
Weber, the proud mother of one daughter who is in college, has nurtured and taught students at all levels in Houston and throughout nation. It is Weber’s teaching and coaching skills that are in great demand for festivals and clinics all over the country. “I’m a bad singer but a good coach,” Weber says. “I get others to sing well.”
*(Author Fran Peterson is one of the Chairs of the Moores School Dinner Concert)