BROWNWOOD – May 9, 2014 –For Dr. Cynthia Clawson, 1970 Howard Payne University graduate and Grammy award-winning vocalist, returning to Brownwood feels like coming home.
“And in this day and time, everyone is looking for ‘home,’” she said.
The Houston native will return to Brownwood on Sunday, May 18, to perform a free concert at First United Methodist Church celebrating HPU’s initiative to become an All-Steinway School.
The campaign will ensure that every piano on the HPU campus – from the rehearsal halls to the performance stages – is designed by the prestigious Steinway & Sons Company. Dr. Clawson is a passionate supporter of this goal.
“There are only about 165 institutions in the world that are All-Steinway Schools,” she said. “Having this distinction would prove to the world that HPU believes in its students and supports the arts. It would be a life-changer for HPU.”
Dr. Clawson received a vocal performance scholarship to attend the university and was a member of the A Capella Choir and the Oratorio Chorus. She was also an original member of the HPU Heritage Singers.
“There were several rehearsal halls on campus,” she recalled. “But if no one was in Mims Auditorium, you could practice on stage with the Steinway piano. It made all of the difference in the world.”
She went on to have an award-winning career. In addition to her Grammy Award in 1981 for Gospel Album of the Year, Dr. Clawson has been honored with five Dove awards and numerous Dove nominations. Her rendition of “Softly and Tenderly” was featured in the 1985 Oscar-winning motion picture “The Trip to Bountiful.” She is also a member of the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Her career highlight, however, is hearing that her music has moved someone to tears.
“If people tell me I made them cry, I say ‘Oh, good.’” she said. “That means the music moved past their ears and down to their souls. That’s not about me. It’s from God.”
She has remained a dedicated HPU alumna, returning to the university numerous times to graciously share her gifts with the HPU family. She was chosen as HPU’s Distinguished Alumna in 1989, the Homecoming Grand Marshal in 1998 and in 2013 received the Yellow Rose Award from the HPU Woman’s Club. In 2007, she received an honorary doctorate from HPU, the university’s highest honor.
She and her husband, author and playwright Ragan Courtney, live in Houston. They have two adult children, Will and Lily.
An ardent supporter of the arts, Dr. Clawson described her experiences visiting the Steinway & Sons factory in New York City.
“I cried all the way through because the people who work there care so much,” she said. “Each person is crafting one little piece of a piano but they come together to create a masterpiece. The sound produced by of one of those pianos might change someone’s life.”
According to Dr. Clawson, she is looking forward to the concert on May 18 to see all of her friends in the area and to perform once again with her good friend Marvin Gaspard, a Steinway artist, who will accompany her on piano. She is especially looking forward to helping emphasize the importance of the All-Steinway School campaign.
“HPU has always been set apart for being such a caring campus,” she said. “But this will distinguish us even more. Prospective students, if they’re musicians, will know exactly what they can expect from HPU – a university that believes in them and believes that artists can change the world.”
The concert, “Pianos for Praise,” will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 18, at First United Methodist Church of Brownwood. There is no charge for admission, but campaign donations are appreciated. For more information, contact (325) 649-8128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo cutline: Dr. Cynthia Clawson will perform in concert on Sunday, May 18, at 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of Brownwood.