Connor Cunningham wasn’t so fond of practicing, but he loved music.
Connor was a 2014 graduate of Edwardsville High School, an Illinois State Scholar and a long-time member of the Edwardsville School District 7 orchestra program. But only a few months into his first year as a student at Truman State University, he was struck by a car while crossing a street and died.
Connor’s death struck his former classmates hard, according to orchestra director Victoria Voumard. “He just graduated last year, so most of the symphonic orchestra members were very close to him,” she said. As a Suzuki student, Voumard said, Connor and his fellow string students had been together, in some cases, since they were five years old.
Now his parents, John and Lauri Cunningham of Edwardsville, have established a $1,000 annual scholarship for a graduating Edwardsville High senior who plans to major or minor in music. They donated $1,500 in seed money, and the Edwardsville Orchestra Boosters began accepting donations to continue funding the scholarship.
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Lauri Cunningham said their neighbors always knew when Connor was driving by, because he played his music loudly. One moment it would be Disney songs, and the next rapper Eminem, she said. But even when he balked at practicing, she said, he always loved the violin, and even requested that his mother bring it the next time she visited him at Truman. “You see, the love of music and the learned love of an instrument will never really leave you,” she said. “For those of you that knew him, you know he would say: Look up, be happy and play music. It’s always about the music.”
This year’s scholarship recipient is Kathleen Browner of Edwardsville, who received the award after an emotional speech by Lauri Cunningham at the final orchestra concert of the year. Kathleen intends to pursue a degree in music therapy at the University of Kansas, Voumard said.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2507.