August 12, 2011
by Diana Furchtgott-Roth
Despite the gloomy economic environment, an outpouring of private generosity is making it possible for 18-year-old Josh Coyne, a gifted black musician, to enroll in New York's Manhattan School of Music next month.
Josh, the adopted son of a single mother, graduated in June from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac.
Two months ago, Josh feared that his dream of studying music composition at the Manhattan School would be dashed by poverty. He is one of only two entering students admitted to study composition.
The conservatory had given him a $25,000 scholarship, and he had received several government grants, but still there was a gap of $16,000 in his budget. A year at the Manhattan School costs about $53,000.
The conservatory expected Coyne's mother to cover the balance by taking out a Direct Parent Plus loan from the Education Department. But her salary at the national Parent Teacher Association made her ineligible. Josh could not get a private bank loan because no one in his family is eligible to co-sign.
I wrote a column in The Washington Examiner about Josh in June because I felt it was a tragedy that such a talented young man should be denied the best musical education. Josh plays the violin, viola, saxophone and piano and already has composed several musical works.
From West Africa to the West Coast of America, people who read about Josh responded with contributions and with commissions for musical compositions, making it possible for Josh to pay his way by employing his talents.
The mix of people who have come forward to help Josh pay his tuition is a testament to the generosity of so many people in America and elsewhere.
A teacher who just happened to read about Josh when she was on a train sent $30. Someone from Washington state sent $50. A Californian is hosting a party, sharing the article and then showing a video of Josh, all to raise money for his education. A donor from Ivory Coast sent $2,000.
Josh has been commissioned by Calvary Baptist Church in Washington to compose a work for full chorus and chamber orchestra for its upcoming 150th anniversary celebration. The church hosted a concert last week and donated the proceeds to Josh's scholarship fund.
Josh received a commission to compose a work to honor a decorated military hero and contracts to compose two different works for weddings. How special is it to have your own wedding music, a wonderful and permanent gift?
On Thursday Coyne's mother heard that Chamber Opera Chicago, a professional nonprofit opera company, has made a substantial contribution to the Manhattan School of Music on Josh's behalf. Josh was told he should pack his bags and go, and stop worrying.
Josh is overwhelmed by the response. He told me, "I'm going to work very hard at MSM, and I hope all of the people who believe in me and are supporting me will be proud of what I accomplish. I'm just so grateful to everybody who is supporting me, and I really want them to know I'm committed to using who I am to help others just as they are helping me."
America is the land of opportunity. If you work hard, you can often succeed. America also has extraordinarily kind people. Opportunity and kindness work well together: Just ask Josh Coyne.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, was a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute from 2005 to 2011.
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