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Steps Magazine | Carolyn Funes: Sharing Her Passion for Music and Art with Students

"Art and music have been the centerpiece of my life," reflected Carolyn Funes recently as she spoke about the Funes Digital Arts Competition Fund and Funes Concert Series Fund — two endowments she established in honor of her late husband and founding faculty member of the Cal State San Marcos Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Department, Dr. Donald J. Funes."Music and art were also the centerpieces of my husband's life. We always believed that they were a wonderful expression of the genius and wonder of mankind," Funes said.Dr. Donald J. Funes was a performer, composer, ethnomusicologist, and an inspiring teacher; his vision of interdisciplinary study and global approach to the arts molded the VPA program in its early years and continues to be at the core of the department to this day.When Don passed away, Carolyn wanted to do something meaningful in his memory, so she initiated the two funds with the hope that they would "invite, inspire, and encourage others to give while also acknowledging student creativity and art."Now in its third year, the Funes Digital Arts Competition is an annual event where VPA students may submit their own original artwork for judging. Three take home the top prize of $150 and have their work framed and hung in the Arts Building as part of a permanent student art collection."The Funes Digital Arts Competition Fund has been a great success, providing arts students with recognition for their skill, creativity, and imagination," noted Professor Deborah Small of the VPA Department.Whitney Westphal, a senior majoring in visual arts, won first place in this past year's competition with her photo, titled "Bittersweet Eminessence.""My dad is an amateur photographer and I first began taking photos in high school. My professor encouraged me to submit my photographs and I'm glad I did," said Whitney. "Winning gave me confidence in my work, and it was awesome to make my dad proud."The prize-winning digital photographs are displayed on the first floor of the Arts Building as part of the Visual and Performing Arts Department's Permanent Student Art Collection."I thought it was important for the University to have art and for students to have the opportunity to show their work," commented Funes. "The Fund is a seed, intended to help nourish student artists and, I hope, spark the interest of others who may be looking for an opportunity to help students."In a similar vein, the Funes Concert Series is designed to enhance student learning by providing access to the best in the arts."For the past several years the fund has sponsored a series of free concerts on campus for our students," said Professor of Music Dr. Bill Bradbury. "Carolyn's eclectic music interests reflect those of the faculty in the department and concerts have featured musicians from Senegal, Germany, Ghana, France, and Ireland, as well as performers from the United States in many styles. Our students have benefited greatly from Carolyn's generosity, and we are delighted and honored to have this ongoing relationship with her."Many students have appreciated the opportunity to experience concerts, including Sidney Willson Young, a senior majoring in music. "It's hard when you are a student and you don't have a lot of money to pay for concert tickets.  We have to attend concerts for class, so it's great that we have this opportunity to see them for free," she said."Don used to say, 'It becomes more difficult to hate your neighbor if you have shared his song,'" said Carolyn. "And it's true! These concert opportunities open up a whole new world for students, many of whom are first generation college students and haven't been exposed or introduced to such a wide variety of art and music from a diverse array of cultures."Carolyn explained that she takes pleasure in the fact that her gifts to Cal State San Marcos create happiness. "When I attend the concerts, it is so satisfying to not only to see and enjoy the musicians, who don't always have the venue to perform, but also to see the students' appreciation and pleasure."