Each academic year brings new faces and talent to campus as students return in pursuit of their dreams. The Sounds of Spirit series will tell the stories of several College of the Arts scholarship recipients and highlight the donors whose generosity helps UF students study the arts and brings unique cultural opportunities to the entire campus and community.
After receiving a full-ride scholarship to the University of Florida (UF), 18-year-old Rachel Stern said she couldn’t be more excited to take advantage of all the things her new four-year home in the swamp has to offer.
“I am looking forward to officially beginning my freshman year as a Florida Gator and taking advantage of all that the University of Florida has to offer me,” Stern said after being granted the William R. Booth Tuba Scholarship for Gator Marching Band. She was told the news just a few months after applying.
“I got a call from the director after I was accepted into the college,” she said. “I was already planning on coming to UF, but this was a big surprise I didn’t expect.”
The scholarship originated when UF School of Music alumnus Bill Booth presented a $100,000 check at the Gator Bands Centennial Celebration in November 2013.
According to Booth, he wanted to start the scholarship to honor the 100 years of the UF Band program, while also pledging to support music students in the low brass section of the marching band.
“I attended UF on a scholarship, so this was a debt that I needed to repay,” Booth said at the time of the donation announcement. “The 100th anniversary of the Gator Band was a perfect occasion to give back.”
Booth, of DeLand, earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from UF in 1968. He then worked as a music professor before founding Relative Workshop, a company which manufactures sport skydiving equipment, in 1972.
He is now the owner of United Parachute Technologies and holds 12 U.S. and international patents that continue to contribute to the safety and growth of skydiving in America.
Booth said that he hopes the scholarship will help aspiring musicians just as he was helped when he was a student here at UF.
“It is my goal to enrich the lives of young musicians just as my mentors have done for me,” he said. “Although I decided not to pursue a career in music, the organizational skills I learned in the Gator Band enabled me to start my own business.”
Stern said that the scholarship has helped her be successful in her own ways, too.
“Walking onto the field for the first time as a member of the Gator Marching Band, seeing all the fans, was just really shocking,” she said. “But it was so exciting.”
Stern said not only does she enjoy majoring in music education and improving her tuba skills, but just simply being around people in the band program.
“Everyone in the program is so nice and helpful,” she said. “I have met so many great people in my section who have introduced me to so many more great people.”
Stern has been playing the tuba since sixth grade, an eight years she said she is thankful for. Along with being a current member of the Gator Marching Band, she is also a part of the Symphonic Band and tuba studio.
“I don’t yet know all the opportunities that are available to me, but as soon as I find them out I will get as involved as I can,” she said.
Booth said he knew the 100th anniversary of the Gator Band was the perfect occasion to give back to the program, as he was surprised to find that there were fewer than a dozen scholarships available for the band to give.
“Giving this scholarship was one of the happiest experiences of my life, and I would recommend it to anyone,” he said. “I encourage anyone who is able to give to do so and help make the scholarship funds prosper.”
Support the Gator Marching Band
See Stern and the Gator Marching Band this weekend as the Florida Gators take on the Kentucky Wildcats. To learn about giving opportunities contact the College of the Arts Office of Development staff at 352-846-1218.