DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Drew Zaremba, University of North Texas Jazz Studies graduate student, won the $10,000 top prize in UNT's second annual Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Awards April 7. Zaremba won for his work as founder and composer for the Unity Orchestra, a large-scale ensemble of classical and jazz musicians.
"Writing for big ensembles is my primary passion," Zaremba said.
The orchestra consists of more than 50 musicians. Zaremba plans to use the prize money to support Unity Orchestra concerts and recording.
"We're trying to organize a concert later this year with the Unity Orchestra celebrating the music of Frank Sinatra, and we're in the process of making a new work in the form of a jazz oratorio to premiere in the beginning of next year," he said. "Right now, I'm spending most of my efforts trying to raise our profile and make more people aware that we're here and we want to make this orchestra take off."
Two other finalists -- Sidney Thompson, an English graduate student, and Aayush Goyal, a student in UNT's Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science --also were honored at the reception and received cash prizes of $3,000 and $1,000 respectively.
The award, made possible by a $350,000 gift from donors Bob and Bette Sherman, honors student creativity and is open to full-time UNT undergraduate or graduate students with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in any academic program.
"The generosity of donors makes the difference between the good and the great, and Bob and Bette Sherman are helping UNT be great," UNT President Neal Smatresk said.
Any original student project, application, invention, musical or literary composition, or artwork in any media may be nominated.
"Students need to be encouraged to think outside the box," Bob Sherman said. "Great ideas emerge when we give them freedom to explore and create. This award is designed to honor the pioneers of every discipline who are willing to take the kind of risks that lead to discovery and transformation."
Nancy Hong, executive director of UNT's Innovation Greenhouse, said the Inspiration Awards are unique in that students in any discipline are eligible to win.
"This award will not only help students kick start their projects, but winners also will receive other resources such as coaching and mentoring from experts in their fields who can help take the project to the next level and beyond," she said.
Inspiration Award judges included Smatresk; David Holdeman, dean of the UNT College of Arts and Sciences; Jim Scott, dean of the UNT College of Music; Cindy Tysinger, CEO of GSATi: Global Solutions and Technology in Denton; and Michael Monticino, president of Academic Analytics.
Get more information about the criteria and eligibility for the Sherman/Barsanti Inspiration Awards.