A scholarship for elementary-level students has been started in memory of Janet Sharp Schoon, a longtime music teacher for the Troy School District.

A scholarship for elementary-level students has been started in memory of Janet Sharp Schoon, a longtime music teacher for the Troy School District.

Photo provided by Kenneth Schoon

Music scholarship to honor Troy teacher

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published April 27, 2023


TROY — A new scholarship for young music students is being started in honor of a longtime music teacher from Troy.

Janet Sharp Schoon passed away Jan. 2. In the weeks since, her loved ones have begun the process of beginning a new scholarship program that will keep her memory alive and ensure her passion for music continues to help the students of the Troy School District.

“My mom loved being a teacher. She also loved teaching in Troy. It is a community that values music education. The strength of music education in Troy is one reason my parents made their home in Troy and raised my sister and I in the Troy School District,” said Janet Sharp Schoon’s son, Kenneth Schoon. “Although I never experienced my mom’s classroom teaching, my mom helped instill a lifelong love of music and learning in me and my sister. My sister was inspired to follow my mom’s path in becoming an instrumental music teacher.”

Fellow Troy Schools music teacher Matt Tignanelli first proposed the idea of the scholarship to the Schoon family and helped them get the scholarship off the ground.

“I worked with Janet for 15 years,” said Tignanelli. “We were both band directors together that went from elementary school to elementary school. We taught a lot of kids and put on a lot of concerts and helped make the music program what it is today. Janet had really high standards and wanted to give her students the best experience possible. As a new teacher coming out of college, she always had something to teach me and help guide me. I wanted to make sure she was remembered.”

The scholarship is aimed at students at the elementary level, which are the students Janet Sharp Schoon spent more than two decades teaching.

“The endowment will fund scholarships to further music education for select students in the Troy School District. For now, we are focusing on private lessons for elementary-level instrumental music students,” Kenneth Schoon explained. “Next year will be the first year we will offer the scholarship. Students can speak with their instrumental music teacher if they or their families are interested in this. It will be awarded in the wintertime to give students some time to pick their instrument and to apply during the semester.”

“The scholarship will be available to students in fifth grade band and orchestra in Troy public schools,” Tignanelli added. “We will pick one student from the band and one from the orchestra and provide this funding for extra lessons as long as we can.”

The scholarship will operate with the aid of the Troy Community Foundation. More information for the scholarship is available at www.troycf.org.

“We created a GoFundMe page so we could immediately capture some funds when we sent out the obituary,” said Kenneth Schoon. “People could donate to it in lieu of flowers. We eventually found the Troy Community Foundation to be a permanent home for the scholarship. The foundation is where we are starting the scholarship endowment with the funds we raised. They hold the funds for us while our family and my mom’s colleagues choose the scholarship winners.”

Kenneth Schoon said they thought one of the best ways to honor his mother was to ensure she kept having a positive impact on students in a way that helped them in their pursuit of music as a passion.

“This scholarship came up as an organic response to people’s love for my mom and to keep her memory and teaching legacy alive,” he said. “She had a 35-year career teaching elementary school band and orchestra. She taught more than 6,000 students. She even saved her attendance books over the years so she and my dad were able to count the amount of students she taught over the years. I think that shows her passion and dedication to her teaching and her students.”

Tignanelli said that Janet Sharp Schoon was a person who made an enormous impact but demanded very little in recognition.

“She was somebody who did amazing things but didn’t take a lot of credit,” he remarked. “She made a huge difference in the lives of those around her. She was really a good reminder to everyone around her, and especially her students, about the importance of music and that the little things you do every day can make a huge difference.”

Music was such an influential part of Janet Sharp Schoon’s life and the life of her family that those close to her said they are glad they can help make a continuation of that part of her legacy.

“Music has always brought my family together. It brought my parents together — they were both bassoonists, and they played bassoon duets together within minutes of meeting each other. My dad plays professionally as a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra,” said Kenneth Schoon. “She got sick during her last year of teaching. She had already decided that she was going to retire. Shortly after she made that decision, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. She wasn’t able to finish her last year of teaching. She had surgery to remove the tumor, which left her disabled. After the surgery, she had difficulty with speech and movement. It was a long recovery, but she was able to regain some speech and movement, but she never got to finish that last year of teaching.”

He added that she continued on with her love of music and those around her for her entire life.

After she retired due to her illness, “it was the first year of the pandemic, so her colleagues put on a retirement party for her in the front yard of my parents’ home. They played some of the music the fifth graders would play in band and orchestra,” said Kenneth Schoon. “Her illness touched a lot of people, but she really persevered and lived with her condition for three years despite the normal projection being six to 18 months. She still sang in the church choir. She learned the French horn, she still did crossword puzzles every morning and she traveled to Germany to attend the Passion Play in Oberammergau, which she always wanted to do.”

“We were able to raise a lot more than we anticipated and are excited to be able to do this for a long time,” added Tignanelli. “Hopefully, this will affect a lot of kids in the years to come. The generosity of members of the community was incredible as we tried to get this off the ground.”