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    New Rainbow Scholarship Helps Aspiring LGBT Musicians


    Special to the “Bay Times”

    The Bay Times was delighted to learn about a new annual award for LGBT musicians called the Rainbow Scholarship. Its founder, Lawrence Dillon, recently shared information with us about this important, groundbreaking and potentially career-launching new scholarship based right here in the Bay Area.

    Bay Times: What exactly is the Rainbow Scholarship and where is it awarded?

    Lawrence Dillon: The Rainbow Scholarship is a new annual financial award to help aspiring LGBT musicians achieve their dreams by attending the renowned San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  It’s the first LGTB scholarship at the Conservatory. It sends a message to LGBT youth that they’re welcome at the Conservatory and will be accepted for who they are in the music world.

    The San Francisco Conservatory of Music is a music school established in 1917. It trains and nurtures new generations of classical music performers, singers and composers at state of the art facilities in the Civic Center arts corridor. I think it’s an amazing asset to our community.

    BT: How and why did the concept for the Rainbow Scholarship originate?

    LD: My late partner Don Oestreicher and I shared a love of classical music. We attended many concerts and master classes (as observers) at the Conservatory. In addition to supporting the Conservatory, Don supported various LGBT organizations. We were together 18 years, and when he passed on in 2008, I wanted to do something special to honor him and his love of music. Establishing the Rainbow Scholarship seemed like the perfect way to do that.

    BT: How do potential recipients find out about the Rainbow Scholarship, and what’s the process to apply? Who selects the winner?

    LD: The Rainbow Scholarship is different than most scholarships in that students do not apply for it. The Student Advisory Committee at the Conservatory nominates 3 candidates who must be Conservatory students who demonstrate significant financial need, academic excellence and service to the LGBT community. The admissions staff selects the winner.

    BT: Please tell us about the first recipient and what he has to say about being an LGBT musician.

    LD: The first recipient of the Rainbow Scholarship is Andres Ramirez, 23, who is studying for a Master of Music degree in Voice. Ramirez is a talented tenor who grew up in Los Angeles and hopes to perform in the world’s major opera houses one day. He came out as “bi-curious” to a few friends in middle school, and now identifies as a gay man.

    I was invited to meet Andres at the Conservatory for lunch and attend one of his lessons with instructor Cesar Ulloa. All donors at the school are encouraged to get to know their scholarship recipients and support their efforts at concerts and recitals. I was impressed with his talent and dedication.

    Andres told me that the Rainbow Scholarship means a lot to him, and not only as a financial boost. This scholarship makes him feel like he belongs to a strong community of LGBT artists, art lovers and allies.

    BT: Are concerts at the Conservatory open to the public?

    LD: Yes. If you’re a music lover and haven’t yet been to a concert at the Conservatory, I urge you to go – you’re in for a big treat! The acoustics in their Concert Hall are the best in the city, and the energy of the young performers brings fresh joy to the experience of live classical music. Check out the performance calendar on their website. The next big orchestra concert is this Saturday evening, February 22. If you’d like to join other supporters of the Rainbow Scholarship Fund and go to concerts together, send an email message to and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

    BT: What is your role in the LGBT community, Lawrence, with the Rainbow Scholarship?

    LD: I see myself as an ambassador telling every music lover about this local music treasure. Currently the annual tuition at the Conservatory is $38,900. The first Rainbow Scholarship was only $1,200, but as more people contribute to the Rainbow Scholarship Fund, the bigger the award can be. My goal is to grow the Fund by 5-10% per year, and eventually be able to provide a full-tuition scholarship for an aspiring LGTB musician.

    BT: How can one contribute to the Rainbow Scholarship Fund and find out more information?

    LD: If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the Rainbow Scholarship Fund, thank you! To contribute online, use the donation form at Under “Please select the category of your donation,” select “Scholarship Fund.” Under “Gift Membership/Named Contribution/Tribute Gift Information,” select “A Gift Membership for.” In the text box below that, enter “Rainbow Scholarship Fund.” Complete the rest of the form as needed, then submit the form and you’re done.

    If you prefer to contribute to the Rainbow Scholarship Fund by mail or phone, or if you have questions about it, please call June Hom at 415-503-6201 or email her at

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