Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Lamont graduate receives competitive scholarship

Marcus Ostermiller, who just completed his piano performance degree at DU, has received a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at New York University.

The highly competitive scholarship is awarded to students with a record of academic achievement and who have overcome significant obstacles to further their education. According to the foundation, more than 1,000 students apply for the scholarship, which provides graduate students with up to $50,000 a year for up to six years. Ostermiller was one of only 30 students to receive the award.

“This scholarship has literally changed my life!” Ostermiller says. “Whereas I had previously grown accustomed to the prospect of accruing large piles of student loan debt to attend graduate school, I will now be able to complete my master’s degree and PhD at any university of my choice debt free.”

Carol Helstosky, associate professor of history and the faculty advisor for the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship at DU, nominated Ostermiller for the scholarship.

“I am not surprised that Marcus won such a prestigious scholarship,” she says. “He is exceptionally talented and his achievements here at DU are even more remarkable considering the challenges he has had to face and overcome.”

Ostermiller struggled to succeed in college initially, attending two schools prior to DU. Growing up in a conservative religious environment, he describes a painful journey to reconcile his spirituality with his homosexuality.

“The act of leaving my religious roots in 2003, though initially frightening and painful, ultimately paved the way for my extensive journey toward solidifying my passion for music,” he says.

After completing a master’s degree on the scholarship, Ostermiller hopes to pursue a PhD or doctorate in musical arts as well as perform and teach piano at the college level.

“I would be thrilled to eventually have a career similar to that of my piano teacher at DU, Alice Rybak,” he says.

Rybak is the chair of the piano department at Lamont, performs both as a soloist and collaborative pianist, and plays for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

For now, Ostermiller teaches private piano lessons to children to help pay for school. While he loves it, it will now be optional for him as a result of the scholarship.

“I couldn’t be more humbled and grateful for the foundation’s tremendous gift,” he says.

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