Major Music Gift Announced, Witkowski Named Inaugural Chair Recipient
Major Music Gift Announced, Witkowski Named Inaugural Chair Recipient

At the All-School meeting on Jan. 26, Head of School Craig Bradley announced a major three-part gift from Barbara Walsh Hostetter '77 and her husband, Amos, to enhance the music and arts program. The announcement was made in conjunction with the winter Board of Trustees meeting and took place at Elfers Hall in the Esther Eastman Music Center, which was named in honor and in memory of Barbara Hostetter's grandmother and was given on behalf of all of Mrs. Eastman's family members in 2005.

The gift establishes the Joanne Eastman Sohrweide Chair for the Director of Music Programs at Hotchkiss. Fabio Witkowski, visual and performing arts department chair and director of the music program, was named the inaugural recipient of the Chair.

Additionally, the Hostetter gift will endow a scholarship fund to provide need-based financial aid for students who show exceptional promise in the performing and/or visual arts. The third part of the gift will support the creation of the Hotchkiss Philharmonic Orchestra. Student musicians, including representatives from other local schools, will learn from and perform alongside experienced, professional musicians — including guest conductors and soloists —for the enjoyment of the campus community as well as the surrounding communities.

"We owe Barbara and Amos Hostetter our sincerest gratitude for all that they have done and continue to do for Hotchkiss," remarked Bradley. "The Hostetters understand the connection between outstanding faculty members and excellent students. The establishment of the Sohrweide Chair and of a scholarship fund, as well as the creation of the Hotchkiss Philharmonic Orchestra, will ensure the deepening excellence of the music program and the arts at Hotchkiss."

Commenting on the occasion, Barbara Hostetter said, "This gift is made with pride, pleasure and gratitude to Hotchkiss for your outstanding commitment in bringing the arts to an increasingly broader community and to the very high standard of excellence in your programming."

Both Witkowski and his wife, Instructor in Piano Gisele Nacif Witkowski, celebrated their 15th year of service at Hotchkiss earlier this year. Fabio and Gisele are true partners in all aspects of their life and work, including both teaching and performing. The duo has given shape to both the School's music program and to the Summer Portals Piano program, which runs every July.

In accepting the honor Witkowski said, "I am extremely humbled and honored to hold the first Joanne Eastman Sohrweide Teaching Chair. We had the distinct pleasure of knowing Joanne during our initial years at Hotchkiss. Her love and enthusiasm for music and teaching were quite palpable. At that time, Gisele and I were two young Brazilians completely new to boarding schools. Every time I met Joanne, I felt her wings spreading over us — her encouragement, appreciation for our performances, and invaluable advice guided us."

The Chair is named in honor and in memory of Barbara Hostetter's mother, Joanne Eastman Sohrweide, whose memorial service was held at Hotchkiss in July 2016. A resident of Lakeville for many years, Sohrweide held Hotchkiss's music program in high esteem. She taught music at Indian Mountain School and Salisbury School, and served as an instructor of music history and choral director at Hotchkiss. Her husband, Bob Sohrweide, taught Latin and Greek and chaired the classics department at Hotchkiss. Sohrweide's son, Jonathan Walsh '80, and grandson, Bennett Rathbun '03, are Hotchkiss alumni.

"Our mother would have been over the moon that this chair has been established in her name and especially touched to know that the first recipient is Fabio Witkowski who she had a very fond regard for," said Hostetter.

President of the Board of Trustees Jean Weinberg Rose '80, P'18 expressed her appreciation on behalf of the Board. "We are so grateful for Barbara and Amos Hostetter, whose generosity has already made an indelible mark on Hotchkiss and transformed the footprint and fabric of our music program. The caliber of the musicians at the School is stellar, thanks to the Hostetters' visionary gifts and the leadership of Fabio and Gisele Witkowski. Additionally, we are delighted that a new scholarship will help us attract gifted music and art students who might not otherwise have the means to attend Hotchkiss."