Beautiful Music

Alumnus donates rare instruments, creates scholarship fund

Beautiful Music

By Matt Markey

The strings of Charles Gorsuch ’52 went silent about a year ago when the 84-year-old former music teacher and violinist with the Anchorage Symphony passed away in Alaska, where he had lived, performed and taught for nearly 50 years. 

But those beautiful, whimsical and hypnotic notes Gorsuch coaxed from the thread-like strands will entertain audiences once again. Long before he died, he made certain his most prized instruments would have a permanent home at Bowling Green State University and be played once again. 

Gorsuch left the BGSU College of Musical Arts his rare four-piece matched set of two violins, a viola and a cello, all created many years ago by the same craftsman. The gift also included additional funds to ensure the instruments could be properly housed and cared for without any additional budgetary pressure on the University. 

“Not only was the collection a very valuable and prized contribution to the College of Musical Arts, but it was remarkable that he wanted to provide the funds for it to be taken care of,” said Dr. Jeffrey Showell, dean of the college. “I’m not sure we would have been able to take it, had his gift not been structured this way.” 

The structure of this very unique gift was creative and was carried out precisely the way Gorsuch desired. The instruments and how they would be cared for, in perpetuity, were documented in great detail said Kirk Ross, director of planned giving for the University,

 “He had this structure all laid out prior to his death, and his instructions were straightforward when the time came,” said Ross. 

While the Gorsuch collection awaits its new home, which will be in a display case that is currently under construction in the Kobacker Hall lobby, another portion of the Gorsuch gift will immediately begin providing educational opportunities for BGSU students. 

He gave the University a large financial donation to fund scholarships, and some of those scholarships are designated for strings students. With his planning, passion and foresight, he continues to provide young people with a pathway to the music he loved.

Gorsuch led a very interesting life and dedicated much of it to his passion for music, and for airplanes. The native of Hammond, Ind., was raised in the tiny Ohio hamlet of Vanlue and he graduated from high school there in 1948. 

He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in music from BGSU and then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1952. During his four-year stint in the military, he was a member of the Air Force band and the Air Force Strolling Strings. 

Following his service, Gorsuch taught music in several Ohio school systems. In 1966 he moved to Alaska and started a long tenure with the Anchorage Symphony.

Gorsuch also worked with the Anchorage Youth Symphony and taught music in the Anchorage Public Schools. After he retired from the Anchorage Symphony, Gorsuch continued to provide private instruction to the next generation of strings players in the Anchorage area.

Throughout his life he was also a devoted collector and builder of model airplanes. Before his death, Gorsuch donated his huge collection of model planes and remote-controlled airplanes to the Begich Middle School in Anchorage. His gift brought about the formation of the Begich Model Airplane Academy at the school. 

The model airplane donation to the Alaska school was quite consistent with Gorsuch’s approach to such things. By giving BGSU the complete set of musical instruments, he enabled current and future string players the opportunity to experience their unique sound.

“It is quite unusual to have that quartet all from the same instrument maker,” Showell said. “They are made to match each other in sound, so a string quartet would produce some sort of blend without having a diverse sound.”

Showell had the opportunity to go to Alaska and meet Gorsuch.

 “He was a very sincere, very sweet guy, and his passion for music was evident since he had not only performed for all of those years, but he had been teaching strings in the public schools, as well,” Showell said. 

“He didn’t have children of his own, but he was devoted to teaching young people. He was a very humble man, and just a lovely person.”