Advancing the Arts

The Nordan Fine Arts Scholarship has long attracted talent to TCU.

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Painting major Kaylee Meyer sketches Abigail Robertson, a ballet and modern dance major. As Nordan scholars, both students found an opportunity at TCU to refine their talents. Photo by Joyce Marshall

Advancing the Arts

The Nordan Fine Arts Scholarship has long attracted talent to TCU.

In 1965, a TCU Trustee’s $50,000 gift made it possible to award scholarships to three exceptional students majoring in the fine arts. Those Nordan scholars, who majored in art, music and ballet, were the first to benefit from the philanthropy of San Antonio rancher and oilman L.A. Nordan and his wife, Pearl Neugent Nordan.

Since then, thanks to annual gifts throughout L.A.’s lifetime and Pearl’s establishment of an endowment after his death, the Nordan Fine Arts Scholarship program has grown in prestige and scope, touching the lives of scores of TCU students majoring in music, dance, theatre, art and graphic design.

Nordan awards vary by discipline, but all require demonstration of superior talent, full-time enrollment and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Five Nordan scholars, past and present, shared how the endowed scholarship changed their lives.

“We’ve heard a virtual audition from a student in Russia and a live audition from a student who traveled from Australia.
Sean Atkinson, director of the TCU School of Music

World-Class Musicians

“Students come from all over the world to audition for the Nordan,” said Sean Atkinson, director of the TCU School of Music and associate professor of music theory. “We’ve heard a virtual audition from a student in Russia and a live audition from a student who traveled from Australia.

“The vast majority of students that audition for the Nordan end up joining the School of Music anyway, which I think speaks to the strength of our program and the high level of talent that the Nordan audition process brings to our campus.”

Nordan scholar David Preston ’22 recalled his audition as an incoming first-year. “I don’t typically have any kind of performance anxiety, so I was really pleased with my audition,” Preston said. The TCU music faculty adjudicators must have been pleased as well.

Today, Preston is working on his master’s in organ performance at Yale.

Talent Onstage and Backstage

“Some of our finest students over the years have been our Nordan scholars,” said Jennifer Engler, professor and chair of the department of theatre. “We have seen them working in national Broadway tours, designing or stage managing for professional theatres, working as world-class yoga instructors for Peloton, and traveling to aid refugees in Africa — to name only a few endeavors.”

Jackie Raye ’16 did an interview with the Frog for Life podcast in late 2019, recalling her days as a Nordan scholar. “They know what they are doing,” she said of the theatre program, crediting the faculty for “good resources” and “holding us to a very high standard.”

Raye signed with an agent she met through her TCU senior showcase in New York City. Following graduation, she moved to New York in fall 2016 and immediately found steady work before booking the national tour of Wicked.

Abigail Robertson is a first-generation college student from Arkansas whose high school dance teach was a fellow Nordan recipient. Photo by Joyce Marshall

A Legacy in Dance

“I never imagined I was capable of receiving such an award for something I love so passionately,” said junior ballet and modern dance major Abigail Robertson, a current Nordan scholar.

Robertson is a first-generation college student from Arkansas; she benefited from ripple effects of the Nordan scholarship before she received it. Her high school dance teacher, Amy Bramlett Turner ’11, was a Nordan recipient who trained under Edmond Cooper ’90, also a Nordan scholar.

“I was someone who never would have had the opportunity to begin dancing in the first place had it not been for Amy Bramlett Turner’s public high school dance program in Hot Springs,” Robertson said. “I trained with Edmond Cooper’s children’s ballet company on scholarship, where he helped build my foundation and love for the arts.”

Robertson, who is adding a Pilates trainee program to her studies, plans to pursue dance professionally.

Nordan recipient Kaylee Meyer said she selected TCU because, “I felt like the TCU faculty saw my potential and were willing to invest in me.” Photo by Joyce Marshall

Artistic Vision

For junior painting major Kaylee Meyer, the Nordan scholarship was the biggest factor in her decision to become a Horned Frog.

“None of the other colleges I applied to responded so personally to my art. I felt like the TCU faculty saw my potential and were willing to invest in me,” Meyer said. “When I arrived at TCU and met the considerate, thoughtful professors, I knew I’d made the right choice.”

Meyer said the award made it financially possible for her to attend TCU and also solidified her commitment to the arts.

“I have worked extremely hard to make myself and the TCU community proud,” said Meyer, whose work has been exhibited in Fort Worth art galleries.

“With TCU’s help, I’ve sold art to the Mercedes-Benz private collection, had a solo exhibition on campus called ‘The Living Room’ and received a grant to do creative research growing fungi.”

Making a Mark in Graphic Design

Like other Nordan scholars, graphic designer Maggie Simmons Causey ’15 got a confidence boost from being offered the award.

“This played a big role in my decision to attend TCU,” Causey said, “as other universities I was interested in did not have similar opportunities.”

Causey started her design career at Fort Worth-based music licensing company Musicbed through an internship during her junior year. “I had enough credits to graduate early, but I was able to have my Nordan scholarship prorated, allowing me to stretch out those final credits so I could work at Musicbed during my senior year and still graduate with my class.”

The arrangement paid off. Musicbed, which had a staff of 12 during her internship, has since grown into FM, a family of five brands with more than 100 employees. Causey is now artist communications manager for FM, overseeing all communication and design needs for the musicians the firm represents.

A sketch by Kaylee Meyer of fellow Nordan recipient Abigail Robertson stands on an easel. Photo by Joyce Marshall

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