Scholarship Page

RAMI Scholarships

Victoria Wu

2020 Gary S. Wilmer / RAMI Music Scholarship

C. The note that started all notes. The first note I played when I was four and the first note I play tonight to begin Chopin’s Ballade No.1 in G minor. 

The audience is cloaked. I can’t see past the stage. The spotlight is on me, and on the black instrument in front of me, its pearl white keys catching the sparkling stage light—their stillness and beauty transformed by a gentle touch of my finger. Sink into the keys. I lean into the first notes, riding the vibrant music the pianoemits. I play the broken arpeggio up to its peak, before letting it fall back down and die away. A melancholy trail cries out through the strings. 

Playing piano is about precision and perseverance. Every night, I perfect the motions, feel the keys, untilthe notes come on their own. Each press has to be precise for the note to convey my meaning. Each phrase has to sing, previous notes connecting to the next. Only then, comes interpretation—a true interpretation arises when the piece becomes as familiar to the musician as her heartbeat and the composer andconventions of the time are kept in mind. 

A part of me has escaped; I gave it up voluntarily. My hands instinctively form the next chord. The story of this piece has played itself out in my mind thousands of times: how, during Chopin’s travels (between autumn of 1829 and of 1831), his experiences and traumas, dreams and memories, molded together to birth this ballade that both he and Schumann quoted is his best, genius work. 

Like I have since I was four, I walk into my living room and sit on my piano bench. Years of use cause it to creak, but the cushions remember my form. This is my room. A cushy rocking chair adjacent the glossy blackpiano holds memories of me reading books. My pains and my joys are imprinted here. This room and thepiano have been my constant, from when my legs were too short to touch the ground and blocks had to be added under my feet. 

There are some days my piano does not see me because I am at recitals. The pianos on these stages are different—they hold their own memory. I add to their narrative too, using every single key to paint a story. Sometimes mine, sometimes someone else’s. When I play Brahms’s Intermezzo in A Major, I evoke a sense ofdreamy nostalgia, constantly searching its way forward. When I play Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B flat Major, I capture Bach’s sheer delight at finally being free from the chains of the wolf tone, once well-tempered tuning developed.  Performing brings me so much joy. I get to draw my audience into the music—share a part of meand convey my emotional message in a way I cannot with mere language. 

I play Chopin’s Ballade No.1. My hands stretch wider and wider and octaves cascade down likeavalanches, growing louder and louder, faster and faster. A triple forte ensues, before I finally cede, ending on a majestic chord. The notes ring loudly and reverberate throughout the concert hall. Though this piece hasended, my story has only just begun. 

The Rockford Area Music Industry, Inc. has awarded over $70,000 to over 50 students to support their desire to study music.

The Gary S. WIlmer / RAMI Music Scholarship

The Gary S. Wilmer Memorial Trust was established in 1996 to honor the memory and continue the legacy of Gary Wilmer by awarding scholarships to students who wish to pursue and education in music. Gary was the founder & publisher of RAM Magazine, a Rockford area music monthly, and a founding organizer of the RAMI awards. Joe Guzzardo, owner of Guzzardo Music, said of Gary, "He was thoughtful and sensitive, and thoroughly understood the problems and needs of local music and musicians." Gary could do it all, be it organizing benefits, booking bands, running sound or lights, helping new music club owners or encouraging new talent to persevere. As the president of his senior class at East High School, as a graduate of Rockford College and as a successful businessman, Gary's 43 years of living showed that education is a marvelous "conductor" of a successful musical life.

It is the sincere hope of the RAMI scholarship committee that the recipients of this scholarship will carry on Gary's legacy with pride.

Scholarship Selection Criteria

- Be a college-bound student in Boone, Ogle or Winnebago County;
- Be 19 years old or younger as of the application deadline;
- Be attending or planning to attend an accredited two- or four-year college/university;
- Have a minimum GPA of 2.5/4.0;
- Demonstrate an ongoing commitment to further their musical education throughout college; and
- Be actively involved in school or community musical groups.
- Previous Wilmer scholarship recipients are not eligible to reapply.

Deadline January 1st. For more information and online application forms, visit

RAMI Young Artists Music Scholarship

RAMI funds several programs through The Music Academy in Rockford. Each student is nominated by the staff of the Music Academy and must demonstrate financial need. Scholarship covers one year of study.

PO Box 4128, Rockford, IL 61110
ramicommittee @

Rockford Area Music Industry, Inc. is classified as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization by the standards of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Therefore, any donations to the Rockford Area Music Industry, Inc. may be tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.