JONESBORO – The family of the late Jeffrey Steward, who was a vocal music major at Arkansas State University, has created an opportunity for future music students to pursue their studies with a scholarship established in his memory.
Steward’s parents, Andrea and Martin Steward, and brother, Shelby Steward, of Oil Trough, have made a gift to Arkansas State University, fully endowing the Jeffrey Steward Vocal Performance Scholarship to honor his memory and perpetuate his love of music.
Students in their junior-senior year of study toward the bachelor’s degree in vocal performance may apply. The selection process includes an audition with the vocal music faculty, who will ultimately decide on the recipient.
Steward knew the importance of scholarships, having received a Department of Music scholarship and a Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship to attend A-State.
After his death last April, friends and families made donations in his memory; the family added several thousand dollars, including the money Steward had saved for graduate studies, to bring the scholarship fund up to endowment level.
“As a family, we so wanted this endowed scholarship to become a reality. This ensures that Jeffrey will always be a part of A-State,” emphasized his mother, Andrea Steward. She credited his involvement with the Department of Music for his happiness, mentioning study abroad trips to Mexico and Ireland, along with music instructors who always showed concern for his well-being and success.
“Most of all he enjoyed incredible friendships. From singing the national anthem at graduation in his freshman year to winning the Lansford Scholarship during his last, Jeffrey loved singing,” she continued, “but opera was his heart. His opportunity to learn how to put acting with music gave him a language that he so needed to express himself. Opera at A-State was home for him.”
Music faculty members also remember Steward’s talent and passion for singing.
“Jeffrey was an excellent musician. He exuded joy and passion for all music, and he brought this into my voice studio every week,” Matthew Carey, assistant professor of vocal studies.
“To say that Jeffrey was a unique musician and individual who touched everyone’s lives in a meaningful way is a complete understatement,” added Dr. Marika Kyriakos, interim assistant dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Communication, and department chair when Steward was a student. “His personality encompassed the gamut of emotions in everyone he touched, yet the result was consistent. Like that favorite Cole Porter tune, Jeffrey was ‘Easy to Love.’”
Steward began studying violin at age six, but he was singing as early as he could talk.
“As a family, we spent many hours going to and from rehearsals and performances, so he spent lots of time singing in the car,” his mother recalled, including harmonizing parts as early as 10.
“In the seventh grade, he made the all-region orchestra for the first of six times. In the seventh grade, he was also selected to sing in the Southwest American Choral Directors Association Honor Choir, which performed in Denver. In eighth grade, he tried out for all-region choir and made the first of five choirs. In his senior and junior years, Jeffrey scored high enough to be first chair in Region 1,” Mrs. Steward continued.
From the age of nine, Jeffrey participated in the Batesville Community Orchestra under the direction of Barbara Reeve, who also was his private violin instructor. While he initially thought he wanted a career in nursing, he decided during his senior year of high school at Cedar Ridge he wanted to sing. When he auditioned at Arkansas State, then-choral director Dr. Dale Miller said Jeffrey’s audition was the best one all week.
“Jeffrey loved music . . . If he wasn’t making music, he was thinking about making music,” his mother added. “Even in his frequent hospitalizations, he would bring his violin or viola, and we would go to the adjacent unit that had a piano and make music.”
Details about the application and selection process for the Jeffrey Steward Scholarship will be available through the Department of Music, which is located in the Fine Arts Center. Information about giving to Arkansas State University is available through the Office of Development, which is located in the Cooper Alumni Center.