Two Shorter University music majors each were awarded $1,000 scholarships based on their winning performances in the 16th annual William and Mary Ann Knight Performers Scholarship Competition. The competition featured five singers and two pianists.
Soprano Mary Saintfort, a junior double majoring in vocal performance and communications, won the voice category.
Pianist Vashti Baluch, a junior piano pedagogy and piano performance major, earned the scholarship in the keyboard division.
Saintfort and Baluch will present a joint junior recital at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 7, in Shorter’s Brookes Chapel. The recital is open to the public at no charge.
Exclusive to Shorter students, the scholarship competition was established by friends, family and colleagues of longtime Shorter music faculty members William and Mary Ann Knight to honor and reward Shorter University students who have achieved the highest levels of musical performance.
Saintfort performed June by Roger Quilter and Seguidilla from Carmen by Georges Bizet. This was Saintfort’s second time winning the competition.
“Winning the Knight Competition gave me so much hope and faith in myself that in the past I didn’t have. Because I am double majoring, it feels like I don’t have enough time to really focus in on my craft,” Saintfort said. “It’s either I’m working on homework for one of my music classes or Communication classes or trying to memorize lines and music for the opera and my recital that’s soon approaching. Despite all the events that are coming up, I can always find peace, and that is in the music I make. This competition helped me see that I can still make things work with the grace of God.”
Saintfort is also a two-time winner of the Regional National Association of Teachers Singing (NATS) competition and of the Rome Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition. She is the daughter of Ricot Saintfort and Cleus Saintfort of Smyrna, Ga.
Indra Thomas, adjunct professor of music and voice, is Saintfort’s voice teacher and was delighted to see her capture the judges’ praise with her vocal abilities.
“I am very proud of Mary. She is a beautiful young woman with an exceptional talent,” Thomas said. “It has been a complete honor to share this journey with her. I am looking forward to great things from Mary!”
Baluch performed Ballade L.70 by Claude Debussy and Desperate Measures (Paganini Variations) by Robert Muczynski.
Winning the Knight Scholarship is amazing because I feel as if my hard work so far is paying off,” Baluch said. “It was also encouraging to hear from people, especially my parents, how they felt I’d improved in my almost two years at Shorter University.”
Baluch has also received the Natalie Dyer Reynolds Scholarship, the Dean Scholarship and the Academic Excellence Scholarship while a student at Shorter. She is the daughter of Shelley and Issa Baluch of Hendersonville, N.C.
Dr. Jerico Vasquez, associate professor of music and coordinator of keyboard studies, is Baluch’s piano professor and has worked with her to perfect her skills.
“Vahsti played quite exquisitely. The Debussy Ballade, in particular, was very special and showed much refinement and sophistication. I’m very proud of her!”
The Knights were longtime music faculty members of Shorter. Mr. Knight is retired distinguished professor of piano and taught at Shorter from 1963 until 2004. Mrs. Knight became a faculty member at Shorter in 1965 and retired in 2009; Mrs. Knight died in 2016. The Knights were selected as the 2010 National Teachers of the Year by the Music Teachers National Association.
Written by Public Relations Student Writer Caleb Britt
Founded in 1873, Shorter University is a Christian university committed to excellence in education. The Princeton Review annually includes Shorter on its list of best Southeastern Colleges. The university offers traditional bachelor’s degree program in 40 areas of study, online courses and degree programs, undergraduate programs for working adults, and four master’s programs. Learn more about Shorter at www.shorter.edu.