Scholarship Alumni News

Scholarship Alumni News


Since 1964 WFAA has awarded annual scholarships to graduating seniors in McHenry County who plan to use their artistic gifts in the performing, visual or literary arts either as a career or to enrich their lives. In 19XX the scholarship program was named in honor of Helen Wright, the first president of the WFAA.

Hannah Gillespie
2016 ~ Piano

A 2016 graduate of Marian Central Catholic High School, Hannah is a rising college junior studying  mechanical engineering with a da Vinci concentration in theology at the University of Notre Dame. Hannah continues taking piano lessons at the university level with Professor Lyudmila Azizova. She regularly accompanies for her dorm Mass and enjoys taking advantage of the many musical performances on campus and in South Bend.


Jonathan Zoia
2015 ~ saxophone

A Woodstock High School graduate, Jonathan will graduate in May 2019 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with two degrees—finance and accounting. He also has two minors—music and the Hoeft Technology and Management Program. His detailed plan for the future includes combining his three passions: technology, business, and music.

Jonathan is the director of music at the Catholic church on campus. He studies classical saxophone in the studio of Professor Debra Richtmeyer, where he focuses on solo and small ensemble performances. Recreationally, he loves hanging out with his friends and having jam sessions. During the summer, Jonathan performs with the Woodstock City Band on Wednesdays in the historic Woodstock Square. This is his fifth year performing with the group.

“Throughout the last few years, I have learned that obtaining a diverse education is of the utmost importance. Having the ability to “bridge the gap” between music and my academic studies has yielded immense growth in my personal and professional life,” Jonathan says.


Martin McCormack
1981~ voice

Back in 1981, after finishing my evening chores on our small farm out on Rose Farm Road, I would put the seventh album of the world famous musical ensemble The Chieftains on the record player. I would listen to their traditional Irish melodies and psych myself up for the next day’s cross-country invitational race.

Their music was my secret weapon, allowing me to come up with the pace that could keep me going in the pack with the other fellows who were considerably longer legged and better suited to the grueling sport.

When I received the Woodstock Fine Arts Association’s Scholarship, I never would have thought that opportunity and validation of my musical talent would lead me to one day walk out on stage with the very band that I listened to as a kid.

I now am friends with The Chieftains flautist, Matt Malloy, and have played at his famous pub in Westport, County Mayo, Ireland. I also have shared in his personal life, having recently played a memorial service for his late wife. We exchange emails, and when I can I join him on stage.

As a member of the band Switchback I have accomplished and continue to accomplish many things on the musical stage.

I wish to point out that had I not received the support and encouragement through the Woodstock Fine Arts Association my life could’ve taken a very different path.

I am very proud to be from Woodstock, Illinois. For me, it will always be my hometown. And I am grateful to the WFAA.

I feel that one can only go as far as those who wish to see him or her succeed.  WFAA is crucial in cultivating and preserving the artistic legacy that is the spirit of Woodstock.  Many talented and gifted artists continue to come from our beloved town, thanks to the WFAA’s support. And in turn, these artists bring Woodstock to the world.


Kurt Carlson
2003 ~ talent to come

Kurt attended Monmouth College where he specialized in music history research. He accepted a graduate position at Butler University and went on to win several awards for his work with late-eighteenth-century Viennese music and politics. In 2013 Kurt was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Austria and worked in Viennese archives and with traditional music choirs in Carinthia. Following his return to the United States Kurt began a doctoral program in musicology at Florida State University and will achieve the PhD in 2019. Kurt currently lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife Mary and their dog Sydney. He continues to perform regularly with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem and on stage in the Lehigh Valley.


Sarah Mondello
2014 ~ Writing

It feels like just yesterday I was giving my first reading—an excerpt from my historical fiction story “The Kiss of Death”—on the historic Woodstock Opera House stage for the WFAA scholarship award ceremony. Audience members approached me afterwards at the reception clamoring to know what happened next. I jokingly told them they would have to wait until it was a published book! Little did I know that only seven months later, on Christmas Eve, I would be offered my first contract with a publisher for that very story.

Six months later my book was released through Kellan Publishing under the pen name “Sarah Natale” (my first and middle name).

Since then, I have worked as my own publicist, organizing and hosting public speaking engagements at libraries, schools, book clubs, and bookstores such as Barnes & Noble in the Chicago suburbs. I deliver a prepared educational presentation about my experiences navigating the publishing industry at a young age. Additionally, given its historical content, my story lends itself to classroom discussion. The supplementary Educator Guide I created, correlated to Common Core Curriculum national education standards, has served as a helpful resource for Chicagoland teachers.

In May 2018, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Drake University with degrees in Writing, Public Relations, and Graphic Design. A few highlights include serving as a writing tutor, working as an acquisitions editor for Periphery Art & Literary Journal, and writing and designing for a creative satire magazine. I also participated in a nonfiction book release from start to finish over the course of two years as an editorial and publicity intern at Drake Community Press. PR News awarded me second place for 2017 PR Intern of the Year. In December 2017, I received the international award at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

I’m currently at work on my next novel–a sequel–and pursuing the second half of my two-fold career as a book publishing professional in the Chicago suburbs. You can learn more about The Kiss of Death (Kellan Publishing, 2015) and my literary endeavors at www.sarahnatale.com.