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Upon the opening of New York’s New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music (NS/J) in 1986, there was an immediate bond between NS/J and Houston’s High School for Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), thanks to the outreach of NS/J’s founding artistic director, Arnie Lawrence (1938 – 2005). Largely due to Mr. Lawrence’s efforts, HSPVA bassist Chris Walker was a member of NS/J’s very first student body, having been heavily “recruited” by Arnie. In the subsequent years, many of HSPVA’s best jazz students have enrolled at NS/J, virtually all with substantial scholarship support from the university.
Robert “Doc” Morgan retired in 1999 after a twenty-three year career as Director of Jazz Studies at HSPVA. To commemorate his career and the invaluable opportunities afforded HSPVA graduates by NS/J, in August, 1999, Doc and Helen Morgan, in partnership with the SBC Foundation, endowed the “Helen and Bob Morgan Jazz Scholarship” at the New School. One “Morgan Scholar” is chosen each year, with he/she receiving a substantial tuition credit from the endowment fund. The student must be a graduate of HSPVA, and, once awarded, the scholarship may be renewed to same student for a total of four years (assuming he/she remains in good standing, etc.).
Recipients to date include:
2000: Alan Hampton (bass/singer/songwriter)
2003: Chase Jordan (vibraphone)
2007: Corey King (trombone)
2008: Cory Cox (drums)
2011: Brenton Johnson (piano)
2013: Sterling Overshown (piano)
2017: Bryant Hunter (drums)
The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) is a public high school in Houston, Texas, and is part of the Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest school system in the nation. Its founding, in 1971, can be traced to the keen visions of two legendary educators:
• Ruth Denney, Founding Principal
• Dr. George Garver, the forward-thinking HISD Superintendent of Schools, 1970 – 1974
Ms. Denney and Dr. Garver admired New York’s famed fine arts high school (LaGuardia), and felt that HISD had grown in numbers and talent to the extent that such a program could be established for the gifted youth of Houston, without adversely affecting the many excellent neighborhood high schools. This was before the now-familiar term, “magnet school,” was coined, but the concept was identical.
After many months of planning, HSPVA opened its doors in the fall of 1971 in an abandoned synagogue just south of downtown Houston. The school was successful from day one (a surprise to many), and has since evolved to become one of the most renowned arts training programs in the world, with curricula offered in Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts; also with traditional high school academic offerings of the highest caliber.
Ruth Denney shepherded HSPVA through its early years, and then departed in 1976 to become Professor of Theatre at the University of Texas/Austin. She retired from UT in 1988, remaining in Austin until her death in 2007 at age 92. Among her many significant honors:
• HSPVA’s performance hall is named, in perpetuity, The Ruth Denney Theatre
• The Ruth Denney Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Theatre at the University of Texas, established at the time of her retirement
Further information about HSPVA, including audition details, is available at the school’s website: