Oboe and opportunity
Danny Sumrall, Leawood, Kan., junior, received a Hixson Opportunity Award, established by Christina Hixson to enable students to attend KU who otherwise could not because of personal or financial hardship. He’s studying oboe with Margaret Marco, associate professor of music.
Tell us about your background.
I grew up mostly in a single-parent household. When I was in high school, my mother and
I moved to Kansas City. About a year later,
I decided to become emancipated. That threw college into question for a little bit. Another family helped me through the process and took me in for my final two years of high school, so I could focus on getting to college.
What brought you to KU?
I intended to be the first one in my family to get a degree. I expected to just take out lots of loans and try to get a job to pay them back. Going in-state, the costs are much lower. And with music, you have to know who your teacher will be, so I took lessons with Dr. Marco as a senior, and I really liked her.
How are your music studies going?
The oboe is challenging. It’s difficult to produce the same quality of sound every time, so you’re delivering a clear, beautiful message. It’s a small instrument, a hundred things can go out of adjustment, and the reeds are tiny. It’s like blowing through a pinhole. And you have to learn to make those. I didn’t realize that playing oboe meant spending all day whittling.
Tell us about your job in the KU Office
of Financial Aid and Scholarships.
I’m a financial aid peer adviser, so I’m the frontline of customer service. I’m on the phone, or at the front desk, answering questions from students and parents who need to know how to get financial aid, what their situation is, what they need to do. We try to help people understand how it works. We constantly try to find ways to make it clear, so students can just do it and not worry about it. When you’re going to school, the last thing you want to worry about is, “How will I pay for this?”
How has the Hixson Scholarship
changed your life?
It meant I could go to college and not take loans. And it is amazing to know that Miss Hixson didn’t have that opportunity. I do have a loan for buying my instrument, which was about $10,000. That’s like a year of school, but I’m going to school nearly debt-free. Miss Hixson meets each one of us. She wants to know who we are, what we’re doing, and she really wants us to be successful. I deeply appreciate what she does for us. It’s hard to describe the relief you feel when someone says, “Work hard and you will get this.” That’s how things should be, and she makes it that way. That’s fantastic.
— Charles Higginson
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