The Gift of Music

Kurt posing in front of a bookshelf.

Kurt Glacy '90

Music is inextricably woven into the essence of Kurt Glacy’s life. An alumnus of the Class of 1990, it has been a beacon and an inspiration for him—a way forward that’s steadying and freeing in the same breath.

To share the power of music, Kurt established the Hugh Allen Wilson & Hilary Tann Annual Music Fund in late 2020.

“I started thinking about this,” Kurt said, “because my wife, Tasha Vincent, died a couple of years ago. 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.

“GPA is not a factor for the scholarship awards. 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. I was a scrawny kid and had trouble adjusting,” Kurt explained. “The Union College Choir saved me. The rehearsals two times a week became the highlight of my four years at Union, 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, my parents married there and I was baptized there. Hugh actually played a French processional for their wedding, instead of ‘Here Comes the Bride,’ but I never tied the connections together until I was taking lessons with him,” Kurt said. “He was still at the Presbyterian Church, but my family had long since moved over to the Methodist Church.”

“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 the study and pursuit of 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 his studies with 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 with much fondness 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.”

“It turned out that 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 after so many years 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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