Winners of Inaugural Stetson School of Music Alumni Awards
As a salute to music excellence and dedication, the Stetson University School of Music presented the first Outstanding Music Alumni Awards to three graduates on Jan. 12 at the Florida Music Education Association (FMEA) conference in Tampa.
This new awards program was initiated by School of Music Dean Washington Garcia, DMA, as a way of celebrating the remarkable achievements and continued contributions of alumni. It was launched this year to align with the university’s 140th anniversary.
“This program is designed to recognize exceptional talent, acknowledge the enduring impact our graduates have in enriching our community and reinforce the transformative power of music education,” Garcia said. “Through this award, we would like to honor those who embody our values of excellence, creativity and service, and to inspire current and future students to continue this legacy of making a positive difference.”
Nominations for the awards were made by alumni, faculty, staff and the public. A committee, composed of faculty and alumni, reviewed and selected winners based on the quality and quantity of their achievements. Gregory W. LeFils Jr., PhD, visiting assistant professor of music education, oversaw the judging and presentation.
LeFils explained the requirements: “[Nominees] must be a graduate of our School of Music; they must have demonstrated excellence and/or leadership in their musical careers; and they must have made significant impacts on their communities through music.”
The alumni considered for the awards covered a diverse range of professions in the music industry, from teachers and members in professional orchestras to composers, arrangers and conductors, as well as music therapists, critics, historians, scholars and entrepreneurs.
Distinguished Artistic Achievement Award
The award was presented to Jason Robins ’06. A talented musician, Robins reached high professional levels in the field of instrumental performance. He is currently in his third year as Second Trombone with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The Stetson alumnus has also worked as a recording engineer for trombone soloists and ensembles.
“His achievements exemplify the discipline and dedication instilled in Stetson graduates,” commented LeFils.
Innovative Contributions to Music Award
Rebecca Arendt ’02 was the recipient of the award. As the executive director of the Memphis-based Iris Collective, she has played a pivotal role in transforming the organization into a community powerhouse, using music as a tool for social impact and community engagement. Arendt’s efforts extend beyond the United States. She served as vice president for the Memphis in Poland Festival, which is designed to share the music, arts and culture native to Memphis with the European country. As professor of practice at the University of Memphis, she has helped introduce the next generation of musicians to chamber music.
LeFils praised Arendt, noting, “Her distinctive work in the arts has left an indelible mark locally, nationally and internationally.”
Exemplary Music Education Achievement Award
The award was presented to William Renfroe ’74. During his 40-year career, Renfroe has served as a high school choral director, collegiate educator and internationally recognized soloist and conductor. An avid arranger and orchestrator, he has demonstrated vibrant creativity and a strong passion for music.
“His induction into the Florida Vocal Association Hall of Fame in 2022 is a testament to his lasting impact on the musical community,” said LeFils.
The School of Music honored the winners with plaques at the annual alumni reception at the FMEA conference; they will be featured on the School of Music website.