The Gift of Music

Kurt posing in front of a bookshelf.

Kurt Glacy '90

Music has been a beacon and an inspiration for Kurt Glacy ’90—a way forward that’s steadying and freeing at the same time.

At the end of 2021, Kurt decided to set up the Kurt M. Glacy (1990) Endowed Fund for Music to provide Union’s Department of Music with funding for instrument maintenance, restoration, purchase, or leasing. “This gift,” Kurt noted, “will ensure that Union students and faculty have access to superb musical instruments that are kept in excellent working order. I know firsthand how much it costs to care for and maintain instruments.”

To share the power of music, Kurt also provided the Union College Choir with funding to help cover its trip this year to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Shou-Ping Liu, director of the Union College Choir, acknowledged, "Our choir students have been saving for up to two years from work study and outside jobs to cover their expenses. Kurt's gift made their dreams come true. I am so grateful to Kurt's heart for our students and his encouragement enabling them to shine in a world-class venue.”

In late 2020, Kurt also established the Hugh Allen Wilson & Hilary Tann Annual Music Fund.

“I started thinking about these gifts,” Kurt said, “when my wife, Tasha Vincent, died. The transience of life came to roost, and I asked myself what places had really made a difference in my life. I was becoming more sentimental about Union because the College was really a changing point for me.”

The Hugh Allen Wilson & Hilary Tann Annual Music Fund provides four to five students per year with scholarships to cover their instrumental or voice lessons. The students must be studying music and are asked to give a public performance, but Kurt doesn’t care about their majors or GPAs.

“I went from being a star student at my high school to almost flunking out at Union. Music is what turned it all around for me.”

“At first, attending Union was a culture shock,” Kurt explained. “The Union College Choir saved me. The rehearsals two times a week became the highlight of my four years, and the other students in the choir were my best friends. Some of them are still my closest friends.”

Professor Hugh Wilson led the choir, and by spring term, Kurt was also studying the organ with him.

“Hugh approached me because our family friends had heard me substitute for the organist at the Methodist Church we attended. They told Hugh that he needed to find me and give me lessons,” Kurt recalled with amusement. “Until then, I didn’t know we had friends in common, but the connection points between us turned out to be several. He and I were both from the Glens Falls, N.Y. area.”

Hugh, who taught at Union from 1962 to 1996, was an internationally known organist, harpsichordist and conductor. He was also the organist and an institution at the First Presbyterian Church of Glens Falls.

“My grandfather was a deacon at the Presbyterian Church, where my parents had married and I was baptized. Hugh actually played a French processional for their wedding, instead of ‘Here Comes the Bride,’ but I never tied the connections together until I took lessons with him,” Kurt said.

“Individual study with Hugh was a profound experience. He had an incredible passion for music, and he didn’t sugarcoat anything,” Kurt continued. “He once told me, ‘You’ll never be a great organist, but you’re a great musician. You don’t play things perfectly, but you play them musically, and that’s one thing I can’t teach.’”

Under Hugh’s direction, Kurt was able to travel with the choir to perform in Miami and at the National Cathedral. He also traveled with the Union College Chamber Choir, a select group from the larger choir, to perform in Greece and Crete in 1989.

“I benefited from all those musical opportunities at Union, and I never paid a penny for my organ lessons,” Kurt said. “I want the strong tradition of pursuing music to live on, and I want to help other young students at Union find their way.”

Kurt, who has worked as a professional musician, business owner and business consultant, also owes much of his career and life trajectory with music to Hilary Tann, the John Howard Payne Professor of Music Emerita.

“I took four courses with Hilary, basically everything she taught. I haven’t kept in touch with her, but I often recall her Welsh chuckle, her German Shepherd, Georgia, who slept beneath the grand piano in her office and how she called me ‘Court’ (not Kurt).”

“Later, when I was at Boston University School of Theology working on my Master of Sacred Music and my Master of Divinity, the Seminary Singers were performing one of Hilary’s choral pieces, and I was the organist. She is a very accomplished composer.”

“Hilary came in early for the performance, and she coached me on the organ registrations to match more closely what she had in mind. The serendipity of seeing her was just terrific. She is such a joyful person, and her smile is infectious.”

“Hilary and Hugh made such an impact on my life. I’m not sure that I would have made it through the undergraduate journey, but the music made all the difference."

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